(June 26) SALINAS, Calif. — Iceberg lettuce markets, which passed the $50 mark this winter, were nearly a tenth of that by late June.

California shippers cite a variety of factors, including high yields and high freight rates.

They say iceberg prices could rise if competing regional deals across the U.S. face inclement weather. Plus, some California growers may have planted less acreage for harvests in July and August, said Frank Pinney, owner of Diamond Produce LLC.

Late June markets were seasonally depressed but still above last year’s levels.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the following June 24 f.o.b.s for iceberg lettuces from the Salinas-Watsonville district: cartons 24s $5.10-6.10, film-wrapped 24s $6.50-7.

The same time last year, cartons of 24s were at $4.10-4.60, and film-wrapped were $6-6.60.

Jim Manassero, vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California, said the company would be short on iceberg lettuce the week of July 1 and very short on romaine. All the same, demand should fall in the wake of the July Fourth holiday.

Meanwhile, romaine markets were unusually active. The USDA reported cartons of 24s at $11.60-13.60, compared to $4.10-4.60 the same time last year.

Mark Crossgrove, sales manager for The Nunes Co. Inc., cited a short supply of romaine in Salinas. All the same, he said the regional deals that compete with Salinas —including New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Quebec, Vancouver and Washington state — all will offer romaine as the summer progresses, if they haven’t already.

On June 24, the USDA reported total shipments to date for iceberg lettuce at 17.2 million 50-pound cartons, compared to 15.1 million the same time last year. Volumes from Mexico, included in that figure, were up by 1.5 million.

Romaine supplies were down by 358,000 40-pound cartons.

Markets for many items in California also have been suffering from high freight rates, Dill said. Rates for product going to Eastern markets have risen at a quicker pace than usual this year, he said.

Compared to the same time last year, freight rates are $600 to $1,000 higher per truck, he said. Crossgrove noted that California lettuce seasonally competes for freight rates from the state’s melons and tree fruit.