Forecast looks good for Kern County onions, peppers

04/20/2012 01:32:00 PM
Andy Nelson

Kern County vegetable grower-shippers expect normal volumes of high-quality peppers, onions and other commodities this spring and summer.

Thomson International Inc., Bakersfield, Calif., expects to begin shipping Kern County onions about June 1, with bell peppers set to follow about five days later, said Jack Thomson, president and chief executive officer.

“Everything’s looking to be on time,” he said.

The weather’s been a bit of a roller coaster, Thomson said, but plants didn’t seem to be suffering as a result.

Kern County vegetable acreage is mostly unchanged this season for Thomson International, with peppers seeing just a slight drop from last year, Thomson said.

Thomson International will harvest two new yellow onion varieties, known for their good skin, this season, Thomson said. The company also planted one new sweet yellow onion variety this year.

Thomson International expects to ship a similar mix of onions this season — about 45% regular yellows, about 11% sweet yellows and the balance divided between whites and reds.

On the pepper side, Thomson International will lean toward green bells and jalapeños, as it does every year, Thomson said.

“We go with what works well for us in our soils and weather,” he said.

On April 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $18.95-20.95 for 1 1/9-bushel cartons of large green bell peppers from California’s Coachella Valley, down from $22.95-24.95 last year at the same time.

Dry conditions in December, January and February accelerated the planting of Kern County peppers, tomatoes and other crops, said Joe Nunez, farm adviser in the University of California’s Kern County extension office.

Some tomatoes were being harvested the week of April 16, though mid-April rains were causing delays for some growers, Nunez said.

“They were held back five or six days” because of rain, he said.

Peppers would likely start shipping in late May, with similar acreage as last year expected, Nunez said.

Disease and pest pressures should be light because of ample preparation for the mid-April rains, and quality shouldn’t be an issue as spring progresses, Nunez said.

“With the rains coming, people stayed on top of it,” he said April 17. “I think it will be pretty much clear sailing from here on in. It’s turning warm, and it should stay warm.”



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