Lower acreage stokes prices for St. Patrick’s Day cabbage

02/14/2013 11:41:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Pamela RiemenschneiderGrower-shippers expect strong St. Patrick’s Day demand for a smaller cabbage crop this year.

St. Pat’s 2013 should be a better deal for cabbage shippers than last year’s holiday, said Mike Owens, salesman for Belle Glade, Fla.-based Pioneer Growers Co-op.

After last year’s low-price disaster, the worst Owens said he’s seen, Pioneer’s cabbage grower in Homestead, Fla., cut back on acreage this year.

And a combination of lower supplies and higher demand could push prices into the $8-per-box range for St. Patrick’s Day, a process that was already starting in mid-February.

“I see them climbing a little higher starting this week,” Owens said Feb. 13.

Prices were expected to top $7 by mid- to late February before inching up further as St. Patrick’s Day nears, he said.

Thanks to heavy retail interest in promoting, Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc. had already finalized most of its ads for St. Patrick’s Day by Valentine’s Day, said Adam Lytch, operations manager.

“Demand is definitely stronger this year than last,” Lytch said.

It’s largely supply-driven, Lytch said, as growers cut back on acreage this year following the sluggish markets last year. L&M expects to triple its seasonal plantings leading up to St. Patrick’s.

Quality also was helping drive demand in the runup to the holiday, Owens and Lytch said.

“The crop is looking great,” Owens said. “There’s been hardly any trouble at all. The quality’s very nice, and we expect it to continue through St. Patrick’s.”

“The quality’s been absolutely excellent,” Lytch said. “We haven’t had any significant weather events either way.”

Potatoes

Red potato prices were so low in mid-February, they wouldn’t likely come down much more for St. Patrick’s Day, though retailers will have them on ad for the holiday, said Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, East Grand Forks, N.D.

On the positive side, movement continues to be very risk for Red River Valley spuds, Kreis said.

“Business has been very brisk,” he said. “They’re shipping ahead of schedule.”

Despite very good quality, cull rates this year have been higher than normal, accelerating growers’ seasons, Kreis said.

“They’re just anxious to get through.”

Unseasonably warm weather in Texas and Florida could complicate some St. Patrick’s Day promotions, said Frank Schuster, president of McAllen, Texas-based Val Verde Vegetable Co. Inc.

“We’re hearing that much of the cabbage planted for St. Pat’s is maturing earlier than planned due to the warm winter,” Schuster said Feb. 13. “The heavier supply this early is causing some sagging market prices this week and into next. It could also cause some supplies to be lighter than anticipated for the normal St. Pat’s slot.”

That said, Val Verde expects to have good supplies for its core customers’ promotions, Schuster said.



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