California rain damages lettuce crops, drives up prices

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California rain damages lettuce crops, drives up prices

The cost of lettuce has been soaring and the leafy vegetable has been hard to find on grocery store shelves after heavy rains in California damaged massive crops.

Too much moisture has wiped out lettuce crops, forced planting delays or created problems with pests, according to Sylvain Charlebois, food industry analyst at Dalhousie University.

"You do lose a lot of crops, particularly in organics where you need to rely on natural ways of maintaining good levels of ... nutrients in the soil," he said.

Some grocers are selling lettuce at prices as high as four times normal levels. Tony Sorge, the owner of Silverstein's market in Windsor, Ont. says he's having a hard time keeping it on the shelves.

On any typical day, Sorge would have 200 cases of a range of lettuce types, but he's lucky to get 15 to 20 cases per day.

"A month and a half ago California experienced ten days of straight rain and the planting that was supposed to be coming up for romaine and head lettuce got flooded," he said. "They had to dig everything up and the new lettuce that's coming up is very, very scarce."

Janet Finlay couldn't believe the prices when she was out shopping Thursday. Happy to find lettuce at all while walking the produce section at Silverstein's, she had to pay $3.99 for her lettuce, instead of the usual 99 cents. 

"It's ridiculous and they're small," she said. "Every store I've been to this has been the price, if not higher." 

Prices of strawberries and celery could also be increasing because of the rain.