Is a Lettuce Shortage on Its Way for the U.S.?

Could we be facing a lettuce shortage in America? Crop losses this year in California not only could affect availability and prices at grocery stores and restaurants, but also highlights the fragility of the nation’s food supply chain, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.


Lettuce growers in Central California experienced unseasonably high temperatures and crop disease that caused severe losses to iceberg and romaine varieties.

David Anderson, AgriLife Extension Economist, said the lettuce shortage is another instance of the nation’s food supply chain being disrupted.

He said lettuce is one product in a long list of perishable food items that are produced to serve a “just-in-time inventory” for retail grocers, restaurants, and ultimately consumers.

“Consumers have dealt with shortages related to COVID-19 disruptions most recently, but it looks like this is weather- and disease-related losses that resulted in supply issues,” he said. “We grow accustomed to seeing lettuce at the grocery store year-round, but a lot of folks don’t know we rely on producers all around the country and beyond to serve that year-round availability.”

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Lettuce is a cool-season crop. It requires temperatures stay consistently below 80°F, accompanied by cool night temperatures. The heatwave in California, accompanied by leaf spot, disrupted the harvest that growers’ in Salinas provide to meet demand now.

“In a couple of weeks, it’ll be another area’s turn to meet that demand, and so on, but it just shows how delicate the system can be if there is an issue in the supply chain,” Anderson said.

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