There isn’t enough romaine lettuce in America for salad, and that’s all because of the chaos created by the pandemic.
Demand has been unpredictable with the Covid-19 virus changing consumer behavior and eating patterns. Given the instability since the pandemic began, the produce farmers have suffered huge financial losses. As a result, growers are intentionally planting less so that they are not stuck with excess lettuce that is becoming more and more expensive to grow and ship.
So now your greens are worth a lot.
“If farmers are on the wrong side of the demand curve, they’re screwed,” said Barry Friends, partner at foodservice consultancy Pentalact Inc. Have no desire to lose that money. I’m not going to develop it now.”
Fast forward to harvest time. Now, there isn’t enough romaine to go around, and demand exceeds supply. Retail prices for salads are rising higher than any other food item tracked by the US government, including meat. Romaine costs more than petrol. All of this points to higher costs for more expensive salads and restaurants such as Sweetgreen Inc. and Mexican restaurant chain Chuy’s Holdings Inc.
Supply chain and logistical disturbances are driving up the cost of food, and making it more expensive to produce. The latest government data shows consumer prices for everything from eggs to coffee to chicken are rising. Romaine lettuce has risen 61% from last year to $3.27 a pound, the highest in 2006 figures, while ground beef is up 17%.
Victor Smith, chief executive officer of JV Smith Companies, a leafy greens grower and distributor, said relief from expensive lettuce is uncertain. Record fertilizer prices, rising fuel costs and the potential for drought, due to climate change, could cut supplies further in the future, he said.