Changes for Florida acreage - The Packer

Changes for Florida acreage

03/29/2013 08:49:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Doug Ohlemeier, Eastern EditorDoug Ohlemeier, Eastern EditorSunshine State growers are increasing vegetable acreage.

Compared to 2011, 2012 acreage of most items (excluding tomatoes) increased plantings by 400 acres to 1,200 acres, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While green beans saw their total crop value increase by $35 million and cucumbers by $15 million, bell pepper sales plummeted $40 million.

Cabbage and squash growers endured $14 million and $10 million in respective sales drops.

In the USDA’s March 8 report on “Vegetables: acreage, production & value”, volume increased in 2012 for all items except squash, which saw a slight drop.

This analysis compared the data to recent years’ production as well as the previous decade’s by examining the state’s top vegetables excluding tomatoes.

Bell peppers, cucumbers and squash saw plantings drop while sweet corn, beans and potatoes experienced strong gains.

Aside from tomatoes, bell peppers remain Florida’s top producing and selling vegetable.

Growers sold 16 million cartons of bell peppers in the 2011-12 season, similar to the 2003-12 decade average.

Though planted acreage remained consistent at 18,800 average acres during that time period, the state’s acreage is down 2,500 acres from the mid-1990s.

For this past year only, corn growers edged out bell peppers by selling 16.5 million units.

Growers planted 49,000 acres in 2012, up from the 36,000 average acres they planted during the early 2000s.

That’s a 36% increase, making it Florida’s second-highest planted and sold vegetable.

A close contender to corn is green beans.

The state’s rising vegetable star increased plantings 35% from 34,000 acres in the early 2000s to 46,000 acres in 2012 and higher than the 32,600 acres growers averaged during the 1990s.

In the fourth spot in the lineup for sales, potato plantings are up 11% from the early 2000s.

Growers planted 37,000 acres in 2012, the highest since 1996 when growers planted 46,800 acres of winter and spring potatoes.

Competition pressure

Ranked at No. 7 in Florida vegetable plantings, planted squash acreage declined 23% from the early 1990s to 9,400 acres for the past five years.

“Squash acreage has been dramatically down over the last five to 10 years due to Mexico significantly increasing its planted acreage,” said Brian Rayfield, vice president of sales and marketing for J&J Produce Inc., Loxahatchee, Fla.

“Mexico is producing the largest market share for North American consumption. The fact of the matter is Florida is not planting enough squash to cover the nationwide demand in the event of a Mexican weather situation like we had this year with the freezes.”

At 169,000 acres in 2012, Florida’s total harvested vegetable acreage, excluding tomatoes, decreased 18% from the 1990s.

This decade-to-decade analysis shows big changes in production of the state’s leading vegetables.

Similar to Florida’s tomato growers, the gradual decline of bell peppers accompanies years of low prices that discouraged growers and prompted acreage cuts.

That’s really no surprise.

I can’t recall any grower ever telling me pepper acreage is on the increase. Most characterize acreage as down.

Buyers should expect additional pepper acreage declines as Florida growers compete against lower-priced imports.

Not facing similar competition, corn and beans run counter to the lower acreage trend and are enjoying production increases.

Perhaps those bright spots could counter losses elsewhere.

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