Florida spring vegetable quality shapes up

01/30/2012 05:46:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Rebounding from small early January freeze damage, Florida grower-shippers say buyers should expect strong spring volume on most vegetables.

Green bean production, however, will probably remain hit-and-miss in February.

Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op, said two consecutive nights of temperatures falling to 28 degrees Jan. 3-4 damaged some Belle Glade-area green beans.

“It didn’t totally knock us out, but it interrupted supplies and caused some quality issues,” Biederman said in late January. “We are feeling it now. Supplies in February will be spotty due to that weather.”

Biederman said the cold caused gaps in planting. bit [roduct from Homestead remains strong. Belle Glade production should improve in March, he said.

Other Florida vegetables, including bell peppers and squash, should see higher volume beginning in February with big spring volume commencing in late March and early April, said Brian Rayfield, vice president of sales and marketing for J&J Produce Inc., Loxahatchee.

“Every field and crop is looking great now, especially in Palm Beach County,” he said in late January. “We see qualities and volumes across the board in Florida looking better in February than in January. And March should be better yet.

“Unless there’s another serious cold front, everything that’s scheduled to harvest in February over the next 30 days looks very good.”

For squash, Rayfield said prices shot to as high as $30 a box after the early January freezes. Prices, however, began declining and Rayfield reported 1/2-bushel cartons of green and yellow squash selling for $18-20 in late January.

On Jan. 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 1/2-bushel cartons of zucchini small from south Florida selling for $26.35-26.85 with medium at $24.35-24.85; 1/2-bushel cartons and crates of yellow straightneck small, $22.85-25.85, medium, $20.85-23.85; 3/4-bushel cartons of yellow crookneck, small, $22.35-22.85 with medium at $18.35-18.85.

Doug OhlemeierBrian Rayfield, vice president of sales and marketing for J&J Produce Inc., Loxahatchee, Fla., views some zucchini squash on the packing line in late January. Growers say early January freezes caused minor damage to Florida winter production, and with favorable growing weather in late January, buyers should expect strong February, March and April vegetable volumes. Rayfield called squash prices strong. He said he doesn’t expect prices to crash but said markets may normalize by mid-February.

For bell peppers, 1 1/9-bushel cartons of green jumbos and extra large from all Florida districts sold for $10.35-12.25 with large at $9.35-9.85, according to the USDA.

Cabbage prices, however, remained low in late January.

Jeff Williams, president of Wimauma-based Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC, called prices “terribly low.”


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