Georgia grower-shippers plan to begin harvesting traditional Southern vegetables such as bell peppers, cucumbers and squash earlier than normal for the spring season.
Shippers say they hope prices strengthen as the deals transition from Florida to south Georgia.
Grower-shippers are looking to a stronger-than-normal bell pepper market leading into Georgia.
Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc. plans to begin harvesting in late May, as normal.
“Pepper is short now and the market is strong out of Florida,” Adam Lytch, operations manager, said in mid-April.
“Demand exceeds supply. There’s not enough pepper coming out of Florida anytime soon to hurt the deal before it gets to Georgia.”
Lytch said L&M, which grows and ships from south Florida, plans to begin its north Florida pepper harvest in early May.
He said central Florida likely won’t have enough supply to affect prices.
In late April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 1 1/9-bushel cartons of green jumbo and extra large bell peppers from Florida selling for $20-20.85 and large for $18-18.85, with medium at $16.35-18.35.
That’s higher than last season in late April when the USDA reported $12.85 for jumbos and extra-large and $10.85-$12.85 for large from Florida districts.
South Georgia Produce Inc., Lake Park, Ga., expects to begin its bell pepper harvest mid- to late May toward the first of June, said Shannon Vickers, salesman and quality control manager for Manwell Produce Inc., Valdosta, Ga., which markets for South Georgia Produce.
Vickers said early spring prices from south Florida are low.
“For the last three to four weeks, it has been a fairly cheap market,” he said in mid-April.
“There was some $12-14 pepper in early March, but we haven’t seen that in a while,” he said.
“Everyone has a flush of product. The heat has really brought everything on early.”
Harry Sheaffer, vice president of Fresh Link Consolidation LLC, Lake Park, sales agent for Coggins Farm and Produce Inc., said prices were depressed over the winter but improved in late spring.
“We have a tight market,” he said in mid-April.
“South Florida wound up a little early and there wasn’t a lot going in Plant City (Fla.). Usually, there’s not a whole lot of volume in Plant City,” he said. “The market should be snug until Georgia comes into play.”
Jon Schwalls, director of operations for Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable Inc., Norman Park, Ga., said conditions appeared favorable for a late April start, a month earlier than normal.