SALINAS, Calif. — California lettuce growers hope for a long-sought bump in demand and price as homegrown deals in other regions begin their fall fadeout.

“Pricing wise, this was the weakest summer we’ve had from the beginning to the end of the Salinas season for at least five years,” said Sammy Duda, vice president of Duda Farm Fresh Foods. “There’s been plenty of supply and pricing has reflected that.”

That could be changing.

“We’re anticipating better movement on everything,” said Mark McBride, sales manager at Salinas-based Coastline Produce. “We are getting calls from customers that have been keying on homegrown areas. New England got an extensive frost warning (Oct. 6). With the incredibly high freight rates we’ve experienced the past couple years, the homegrown deals have become more of a priority for some customers. But during the winter they’ve got to come west.”

Iceberg prices for 24-count, film-lined cartons were $6.45 to $7.35 on Oct. 3, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Year-ago prices were $7.35 to $8.55.

Romaine 24-count cartons are $10.25 to $11, with hearts at $11.45 to $13.05 in units of 12 three-count packages. Year-ago prices were $7.56 to $8.50 and $11.50 to $12.50, respectively.

In Salinas, growers lost one to two days of harvesting after a storm dropped an inch of rain on the valley in the first week of October.

It’s too early to tell if quality issues will result, Duda said.

“If you harvest during the rain or right after, you’ll see more pinking and bruising until a couple days later, when the plant has the ability to rid itself of the extra moisture,” he said. “Mildew doesn’t show for about a week to 10 days. Anytime you have the potential for disease or quality issues, you’re concerned about arrivals and appearances.”

“Rain doesn’t help anybody’s texture or condition, but it’s typical to get rain here every fall,” McBride said.

In any case, the lettuce action will soon shift from Salinas to parts south. The Huron deal starts about Oct. 20. From there, Duda Farm Fresh Foods will transition to Yuma, Ariz., around Nov. 18.

Not all growers participate in the Huron deal. Some will extend the Salinas season and go straight to Yuma in the first week of November; and in winter, some, like Coastline Produce, will have lettuce deals in California’s Imperial Valley.