(Nov. 3) YUMA, Ariz. — Despite rain and temperatures that were between 10 and 15 degrees lower than normal in late October, lettuce growers expect good quality and an on-time start to the Yuma iceberg crop around Thanksgiving.

The same optimism doesn’t carry over to the f.o.b.s they expect, however, following a late-October slide in the Huron crop pricing, even as rains there curtailed supplies.

Central San Joaquin iceberg lettuce on Nov. 1 was $4.10-5.25 on unwrapped and $6-7.10 for wrapped cartons of 24 heads, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Yuma-area rain came far enough ahead of the start of harvest that the front end won’t be affected, growers said. But the rain fell when they were still planting iceberg lettuce for the spring harvest, which ends in March.

“It can be a problem,” said Sammy Duda, vice president and general manager of Duda California/Gene Jackson Farms Inc., Salinas. “If you miss three or four days of planting, that could turn into eight or 10 days (of missed harvest) on the other end. I think we’ll see a particular impact for that week. But what the supplies going into that week will be, I don’t know.”

Shippers expect the short-lived Huron deal, which is a transition from Salinas to Yuma, to start winding down in mid-November. Although lower temperatures can delay the start of a crop, shippers don’t expect that to be the case for Yuma this season.

“Our budgeted start date is Monday, Nov. 15, and we’re right on budget,” said Ken Adams, sales manager for Growers Express LLC, Salinas. “We did miss a few days of plantings for the February harvest.”

The Huron deal stopped for 1½ days the week of Oct. 24 because of rains there, Adams said, but there was no corresponding uptick in prices.

Instead, Salinas prices dropped from $8-12.25 for unwrapped and $11.10-12.60 for wrapped cartons of 24 heads on Oct. 25 to $5-7.25 for unwrapped and $6-9.25 for wrapped 24 heads on Oct. 29, according to the USDA.

“The crop is actually beautiful, and it’s a bumper crop, but the market’s in the Dumpster,” Duda said.

“Everybody thought the rain would be a big deal, but nothing helped the markets at all,” Adams said.

Bill Mendenhall, owner of Yuma Distributing Co., Yuma, said normal high temperatures for the area are 83 to 85 degrees. On Nov. 2, the high temperature was 70 degrees.

“It’s not that the lows are super low. They’re pretty close, within 5 or 6 degrees,” Mendenhall said. “But the high temperatures just haven’t been there.”

It’s a different scenario than the start of the Yuma deal last year, when the temperatures were routinely topping 100 degrees over the summer, with September and October temperatures 10 degrees higher than normal.

The heat-damaged the crop, sending Arizona lettuce to $40.60 for a carton of unwrapped and $42.60 for wrapped in late November.

“I don’t think it will be a great start, f.o.b.-wise,” Mendenhall said about the upcoming Yuma harvest.