Cauliflower is increasingly hard to come by right now as cool, wet weather hampers the Californian growing regions. Growers say the shortage has been exacerbated by warm weather a month ago, which brought product on quickly, before production halted just as the gap started to appear.
"This season has had its ups and downs," noted Mark Clogston of EpicVeg, based in Lompoc California. "Storm systems a month ago were followed by warmer weather which accelerated production. Then cooler weather more recently has slowed things down again. There seems to be an industry wide shortage with every growing region affected by rain and cool weather."
Clogston added that the shortage is not likely to end soon. "A month ago, we were two weeks ahead of schedule, and now we are two weeks behind," he said. "As a result, we have been in the middle of a gap the last ten days and it's expected to remain this way for at least another two weeks."
High prices but not enough product
There are reportedly some high prices being quoted for cauliflower in the market, which is to be expected given the acute shortage. However, Clogston explained that these high prices are futile as there is simply not enough product for suppliers to provide the market with.
"People are quoting high prices, in the $30 range, but the product is not there," he observed. "It's been difficult to even meet contract quotas, meaning there is no loose product to take advantage of those prices. We wished we had all that product from a month ago now!"
Typical winter pattern
Fortunately for the market, demand for cauliflower is not all that strong. If it had been, prices would be exceptionally high. As it is, wintry weather in other parts of the United States is dragging demand down. Suppliers say this, along with the fluctuating production levels, is more typical of a California winter vegetable season.
"There is a lot of inclement weather in the Midwest and Northeast which is resulting in relatively weak demand," Clogston shared. "This usually happens in the winter but in the last few years, California has not had such cool and wet weather. Hopefully we will return to more normal volumes in a few weeks. You just have to plant regularly and hope it comes off regularly."
"We grow cauliflower year round here in the Lompoc Valley, just south of Santa Maria," he continued. "We do mainly contract work with foodservice and packing companies. Some of these companies produce cauliflower rice and other similar products."