Florida vegetables could experience erratic early season volume

10/17/2012 07:08:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Heavy late summer rains are expected to cause supply shortfalls — and gaps in some cases — for some Florida fall vegetables.

Utopia FarmsDoug OhlemeierJim Monteith (left), sales manager for Myakka City, Fla.-based Utopia Packing LLC, a division of Utopia Farms, and Brian Turner, Utopia’s owner, examine bell peppers in late September. Grower-shippers say heavy rains during planting could cause irregular supplies for some south Florida fall vegetables.Rainfall, some of it from Hurricane Isaac, whose outer bands rolled through Florida’s peninsula in late August, disrupted some planting schedules.

Grower-shippers say buyers should expect small gaps in the early part of the sweet corn deal and look for rains to cause slight disruptions for other crops, including green beans, bell peppers, cucumbers and squash.

“This year will be a little splotchy,” Brett Bergmann, co-owner of Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee, said in mid-October. “We anticipate having real good quality corn, but depending on the weather, we’re not sure how the whole fall crop will come off yet.”

Gary Stafford, Branch salesman and green bean manager, said he expects erratic early bean volume.

The deal should start on time, but supplies shouldn’t return to normal until early December, he said Oct. 15.

On some vegetables, including bell peppers, cucumbers and squash, the frequent rain could cause some issues, said Brian Rayfield, vice president of sales and marketing for J&J Produce Inc., Loxahatchee.

“I could see some unpredictable volume up and down early in the deal, so it could make the Thanksgiving promotional period a little touchy, but overall, things are going to be fine in Florida,” Rayfield said in mid-October.

Rayfield said he’s unsure how that could affect the market.

South Florida squashDoug OhlemeierSouth Florida squash north of Immokalee, Fla., in late September.If Georgia experiences favorable November weather, he said growers would likely continue harvesting through Thanksgiving and buyers could see little effect from Florida’s early volume variability.

Other grower-shippers say the deal should begin okay.

Utopia Packing LLC, a division of Myakka City-based Utopia Farms, planned to begin pepper harvest in a light way on Oct. 18, ramping up to promotable volume by the end of the month, said Jim Monteith, sales manager.

“From what we are seeing now, we should have good volume with very good quality,” he said Oct. 16.

“There doesn’t seem to be any issues with disease and bacteria in the fields and the fields look very clean,” Monteith said. “We are anticipating a good start for the season.”

Calvert Cullen, president of Cheriton, Va.-based Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc., which grows and ships bell peppers, cucumbers and squash throughout the eastern U.S., said most of his plantings got in after Hurricane Isaac.


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