"It's been a very weird year for winter lettuce, as producers hadn't seen such high prices and lack of produce in 10 years. It was the coldest winter of the past 4 or 5 years, so ripening was delayed," explains Bayer lettuce account manager Salvatore Gaglione.
According to Gaglione, it was a combination of elements that slowed down crop growth - snow in Spain affecting Iceberg lettuce, heavy rains in Italy and cold temperatures all over Europe.
"Demand was good, so many had to harvest 220-230 gram heads. The produce that was to be harvested in January had to be harvested in early December, leading to a lack of volumes and an increase in prices." Even the fresh-cut industry had to deal with higher prices.
But the situation has changed in the past two weeks, "as temperatures have gone back to normal, demand is low and prices are very low. The rest of Europe manages to meet demand with the domestic produce, so they don't need to import as much. At least the greenhouse campaign is ending."
During the winter, Italy is a great exporter. "We mainly export to Germany, though we have started sending volumes to Eastern Europe (especially Romania and Poland). Other destinations are Switzerland and Austria. Over the past few years, some producers began testing Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) where margins are higher."
The most popular type of lettuce abroad is Trocadero. "However Scandinavia has begun to appreciate our Lollo lettuce."