Salad sticker shock

The price of lettuce is going up because of poor harvests, and what you might call 'salad season.'

In California, where produce like lettuce is sourced this time of year, heavy rains fell in January and February, ending a long drought.

'The problem is there may have been too much moisture, which leads to pest prevalence,' explained Sylvain Charlebois, an expert in food policy and distribution at Dalhousie University.

Less supply means higher prices - and also, people are primed to buy more green stuff these days. 

'What is putting more pressure on prices for celery and lettuce, particularly, is because we're in spring and demand for these products usually goes up. Consumers wants to buy healthier foods.' 

A grocery store clerk in the Gay Village pulled up his recent order forms for CJAD 800: the pink papers show that a case of iceberg lettuce is going for $85.50. The store usually makes $30 on that box of 30 heads. Now, the profit is $22 - only if all the produce is sold. And for the consumer, it means a head of lettuce that usually goes for a toonie is now $3.99. 

Meanwhile, a case of celery costs $53 - which has lead the store to bump the price up from $1.99 to $2.19. 

'Of course it's frustrating, because it's expensive... so we can't sell,' he explained. 

Local produce won't hit the shelves into June. Florent Gravel, president of the Quebec Food Retailers Association, says that he'd like for the province to study harvesting lettuce here at home in all seasons, with greenhouses - even if the elecriticity costs would be high.

'If we can invest in Bombardier, and other companies like that, why can't the government look into [harvesting] all year-long?'