‘Salad Bowl’ woes keep lettuce prices up

California produces more than half of the nation’s lettuce
The current scare over romaine lettuce is a public health alert at this time, and not a recall.
The current scare over romaine lettuce is a public health alert at this time, and not a recall.(Source: FDA)
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 9:46 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Flooding and an insect-spreading virus in the area of California known as the “Salad Bowl,” are being blamed as the price of lettuce continues to rise.

“It’s now more than 50% of what it was, and now it’s getting up to more than $4, $5,” said Rockford resident Mikayla Gubrud, who buys lettuce for herself and pet rabbits. “That really is a bummer.”

Gubrud isn’t the only Stateline shopper who is faced with the choice of cutting back on lettuce or just waiting it out while supply-chain issues are done causing havoc on the United States produce market.

Just two years ago, stores were getting around $2 for a pound of romaine lettuce. A head of iceberg lettuce was going for as little as 89 cents in some stores. Today, local supermarkets are getting between $3.50 and $5 for romaine $2 to $4 for iceberg.

Restaurants are also monitoring the situation. Patrick Alberto, who owns Octane in Rockford, says when the price of romaine, which he serves primarily, gets too high, he’s able to substitute it without having to increase his prices.

“Usually we’ll pivot to another lettuce like iceberg or bulk up our spring greens to kind of like make the difference,” he said. “But yeah, we do pay attention to it.”

Salinas Valley, otherwise known the “Salad Bowl” produces about 70% of the nation’s lettuce. The areas comprises several agriculture cities: Bradley, Castroville, Chualar, Gonzales, Greenfield, Jolon, King City, Salinas, San Ardo, San Lucas, Soledad and Spreckels.