As high temperatures in the Western US are hitting the produce industry, US supermarkets have stated they are giving less shelf space to products with weather-induced discolorations, bruises, or burns. Stores are cutting prices on poor-quality items to avoid getting stuck with them and increasingly receiving products from Canada, Florida, New Jersey, and Ohio instead of California, long the go-to source for US grocers.
California vegetable growers said the current heat wave could be facilitating diseases that kill or damage lettuce, leaving less to sell to restaurants or grocery stores. High temperatures can promote diseases such as pythium wilt and impatiens necrotic spot virus, or INSV, according to produce growers, researchers, and trade groups. Pythium wilt is a soil-borne disease, while INSV is transmitted to lettuce by small insects known as western flower thrips.
Christopher Valadez, president of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, which represents produce farmers, shippers, and processors, said this season appears to closely resemble 2020 in terms of high temperatures and disease incidence in lettuce. Disease cut lettuce yields along California's central coast by about 30% that year, he said.