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Lettuce Prices Explode as Farmers Limit Supply

by Kati Michelle
(Photo By MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

If you’ve noticed a spike in the price of your romaine lettuce at the grocery store, you’re not alone. According to Bloomberg, some parts of the country have seen prices rise as much as 61%. The bad news for lettuce-lovers and salad-munchers is that this doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.

The price hikes are directly correlated with farmers limiting their supply. But at the end of the day, farmers are in a pretty tough spot themselves. They say the limited supply is necessary because they cannot risk taking a huge financial hit from any excess product that may end up rotting on the grocery store shelves.

“If farmers are on the wrong side of the demand curve, they’re screwed,” says Barry Friends, who works for Pentallect Inc. in foodservice consultancy. “If I’ve got to plow it under or dump it on the market for cheap, I have no desire to lose that money. I’m just not going to grow it.”

And there are other factors at play here as well.

Why Are Farmers Limiting Their Lettuce Supplies?

The price for a pound of romaine lettuce currently sits at about $3.27– the highest it’s been since 2006. The meat industry hasn’t even seen price hikes that big, though prices have reportedly increased by approximately 20% there too.

Though the lettuce industry doesn’t have to worry about meat-processing plants or slaughterhouses, the sale of lettuce has seen difficulties in some other areas. Fertilizer, for example, continues to cost farmers more and more. Additionally, a shortage of truck drivers makes the product more and more difficult to transport (and sell).

Together, these issues compound with the growing concerns about the inflation rate and put pressure on the farmers who also have to make a living. The Department of Labor released data showing that inflation recently hit its highest peak in four decades. By December, prices had climbed nearly 7% across the board for consumers.

Other Heavy Hit Areas

Unfortunately, several common items have also seen significant increases over the past year or so. A carton of eggs now costs closer to $2 than its previous $1.48 average. A pound of bacon has also increased from its $5.83 average to upwards of $7 now.

On the topic of meat, while a pound of lean ground beef might have cost around $5.71 at the end of December of 2020, that same pound of lean ground beef now sets you back almost a full dollar more. The average is estimated to sit at around $6.32 currently. Steak has also seen significant increases, with a pound of boneless sirloin going for upwards of $11 nowadays when the same product cost $8.98 back in 2020.