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11 January 2022

Why is lettuce so expensive?

Wild weather spurs growing prices.

The price of the summer staple has doubled since this time last year.

Today, a lettuce is selling from $5.50 to $5.99 in supermarkets, compared to the $2.34 it’d have cost you this time last year.

Similar to the strawberry shortage right before Christmas – lettuce is the latest victim of last year’s weather bomb.

December saw the equivalent of three months of rainfall experienced in 10 days. This, combined with the high levels of humidity afterwards, wreaked havoc on summer greens crops nationwide.


John Clarke, the managing director of Woodhaven Gardens, the biggest produce grower in the country, said the crop is down significantly – with many leafy greens such as spinach, silver beet and fresh cut lettuce affected by the weather.

He said growers aren’t reaping extra profit despite the high prices – this increased price reflects the scarcity of product.

On top of that, costs for growing your vege have only been increasing.

Clarke estimates labour costs have increased around 40 percent in the past three years, nitrogen components and fertiliser costs have doubled, transport fuel costs have increased around 30 percent, and hire crate charges have increased too.

A concern is the rising cost of producing vege stopping consumers from buying and growers from growing, meaning there could be less local produce available in the future.

While the cost of some crops is soaring, don’t give up on getting your daily dose of fruit and vege.

Jerry Prendergast, president of United Fresh – which represents growers, exporters and retailers across New Zealand and runs the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust – encourages consumers to rethink their options and try cheaper alternatives.

“When lettuce is short – think about doing a Waldorf salad instead of a lettuce salad, or tomato or cucumber as there’s plenty of them at the moment.”

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