Salinas Valley Virus to Blame for Rise in Cost of Lettuce

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If you plan on making salad for dinner, it’s going to cost you a lot more than it did this summer.

Lettuce prices are skyrocketing so much that some fast food restaurants have decided to temporarily stop serving it.

Experts said prices are soaring because production in the Salinas Valley is down significantly because of a virus known as INSV.

“In October most of the nation’s lettuce comes from the Salinas Valley and they are having very low production because the virus affected their crop,” said Bruce Babcock, agricultural economist at UC Riverside. “A case of romaine is $75 dollars now and last January it was $25 so that's almost a tripling of prices at the wholesale level.”

Which is why shoppers may be in for some sticker shock especially when they see a head of iceberg selling for nearly $6.

“It's expensive and I would not have salad,” said Victor Lebacqz of San Jose.

The shortage is not just impacting salads. Some Bay Area Carl's Jr. restaurants are not offering lettuce, or are holding off on putting leaf lettuce on burgers.

At the Salad Shoppe, owner Josh Gentle said he’s eating the extra cost of lettuce rather than pass it on to customers.

“We have never seen $70 for a box of lettuce,” he said. “Its shocking.”

But Babcock said the steep lettuce prices will likely come down soon as production shifts to desert areas which are not as affected by the virus.

Agricultural experts said the virus is affecting not just iceberg, but also romaine, butter and red leaf lettuce.

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