Warm growing weather has brought on a surge of broccoli and cauliflower volumes and a corresponding slump in markets, but shippers say that could change quickly with cooler weather and holiday demand.
Broccoli and cauliflower crops were running a week to two weeks ahead of schedule in early December because of abnormally warm growing weather, said Steve Church, chief executive officer of Church Bros. LLC, Salinas, Calif.
“Coming into (Thanksgiving), we had good demand and normal supplies of broccoli,” Church said. “Now we have more than normal supplies.”
Cauliflower supplies, meanwhile, were lower than usual at the end of November but were picking back up in early December, Church said.
So much so, that by the weeks of Dec. 10 and Dec. 17, Church’s cauliflower supplies will likely be 175% of normal, said Jeff Crook, a salesman for the company.
“It’s been Chamber of Commerce growing weather,” he said.
Movement was sluggish on both broccoli and cauliflower the week of Dec. 3 because of the unexpectedly heavy volumes, said John Chobanian, broccoli commodity manager for Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist Farms.
“The market’s very depressed right now,” he said.
But that could change as early as the week of Dec. 10, as holiday demand kicks in, Chobanian said.
“We expect it to change with the Christmas pull.”
On Dec. 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $6-6.50 for cartons of bunched 14s broccoli from California, down from $10 last year at the same time.
Cartons of film-wrapped white 12s cauliflower were $12.50-13.50, down from $13-$14.55 last year.
Volumes will likely to return to more normal levels about the week of Dec. 17, Chobanian said.
Weaker demand, combined with the higher volumes, were combining to depress markets in early December, said Jacob Abramson, broccoli, lettuce and leaf product manager for Salinas-based Markon Cooperative.
But that could change very quickly, he said. Cooler temperatures were forecast for the desert early the week of Dec. 10, and if there’s a hard cold snap, combined with Christmas demand, markets should strengthen quickly.
“It could be a real tight market,” he said.
A cold snap could also lead to a “pretty big” supply gap in the coming weeks, Abramson said.
With broccoli and cauliflower volumes so high in early December, Crook agreed that it was likely to be followed by gap — possibly in early January, though Mother Nature will have the final say on that, Church said.
The week of Dec. 3, Crook said demand was strong on broccoli, “just ok” on cauliflower.
“I’m a little concerned” about the large cauliflower volumes in the first half of the month, Crook said.
That said, broccoli and cauliflower traditionally do well in the run-up to the holidays, Crook said. Even though Church Bros. does not ship product for party trays, that demand tends to lift all boats.
“There’s a huge uptick in heads consumed for the holidays,” he said.