H-CENTRAL COAST

Aug 2, 2013 7:03 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

Lettuce farmers celebrate price spike

Bad weather usually translates to bad days for farmers on the Central Coast, but bad weather anywhere else, especially the East Coast, can translate into big bucks. It's all about supply and demand.

Due to difficult weather, East Coast growers have lost much of their lettuce harvests. In order to fill that gap, they are calling on California farmers. That demand has sent prices soaring, and farmers here are raking in the cash.

"When the prices are good like this, we will ship as much as is mature and available," said local lettuce grower Tom Ikeda.

On Friday, lettuce fields throughout the Central Coast were bustling. Workers were busy cutting, sorting and boxing hundreds of pounds of lettuce destined for a cross country trip.

"I'm thrilled right now that the market is so high. It's a pleasant surprise," said Ikeda. "Like I said, this is uncharacteristic for this time of the year."

Ikeda says harvesting on the Central Coast usually happens from April until November.

He says the amount of spring crop was huge; however, because there was so much supply, it dropped prices too low.

"This is helping to fill in that hole we dug during the spring time," said Ikeda.

He says summer storms have left much of the East Coast lettuce unusable, either because of mildew growth or tip burn. Now, consumers demanding lettuce are getting it from California and helping to bounce those prices back up.

"On a $20 box of lettuce, by the time it gets back east, that's a $30 box of lettuce," said Ikeda.

While local consumers on the Central Coast won't pay higher prices, those on the East Coast will see prices double or even triple. Bad for them, but good for farmers like Ikeda.

"When this happens, you just hope that it goes for as long as possible and you try to ride that wave for as long as possible hoping it's going to be a nice long wave," said Ikeda.

Ikeda says their best time of year usually comes in the fall and hopes this early jump start in late summer is a positive indication of things to come.

From field to fork, a harvest of lettuce usually takes about 75 days.

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