(May 17) Devastating lettuce losses in Spain could potentially boost low U.S. markets, grower-shippers said the third week of May — but they haven’t yet.

Three weeks of rain have put a serious dent in the amount of lettuce shipped from Spain to the rest of Europe, according to media reports.

With Spain supplying much of the lettuce supplies for Europe, the shortage could increase exports from California to Europe, U.S. grower-shippers said.

“It’s the kind of thing that does drive markets,” said Mike Marcroft, lettuce commodity manager at Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville, Calif.

Regardless of whether a U.S.-based company exports lettuce to Europe or not, higher pull from across the pond would benefit everyone, Marcroft said, though he said May 15 he hadn’t noticed an effect yet.

Michael Boggiatto, president and general manager of Boggiatto Produce Inc., Salinas, Calif., also had not seen higher demand from Europe by May 15.

The Spanish shortage comes at a time when the market could use a little shove, Marcroft said. Because of cooler weather earlier in the spring, acreage that normally gets harvested in April had to wait until May, Marcroft said. That has meant a glut of product in May.

Lettuce is moving, Marcroft said, just not at the prices growers would like.

“Markets are down from where they were at, though we’ve still found activity to be good,” he said.

On May 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $5.35-6.35 for cartons of 24 heads of iceberg lettuce from Salinas, down from $25.35-29.35 last year at the same time.

A rainy spring in the Salinas Valley last year reduced volumes significantly and pushed prices well beyond their typical levels for that time of year.

Romaine was $4.35-5.50, down from $14.35-18.45 last year at the same time.

“There’s plenty available — ergo, the low commodity markets,” said Bruce Knobeloch, vice president of marketing for River Ranch Fresh Foods LLC, Salinas. “The supply outlook looks healthy for the short-term.”