Rain disrupts supply of Florida produce

11/02/2012 03:23:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

PLANT CITY, Fla. — Buyers should expect this season’s Florida vegetables to start slow and variably.

Rain that drenched the Sunshine State in late summer and early fall should cause small shortages of supply during the start of some of this season’s vegetables, including sweet corn, green beans and bell peppers.

Reports of lower planted acreage could also affect prices.

Some areas received as much as 16 inches from Hurricane Isaac and additional rains continued to disrupt some growers’ plantings.

“Across the state, we have had a very rainy and wet late summer and early fall planting season,” Brian Rayfield, vice president of sales and marketing for Loxahatchee-based J&J Produce Inc., said Oct. 16.

“It has been very tropical, though we haven’t had any hurricanes. Some growers are late planting because it has been too wet. Some who planted on time and had early plantings may have yield reductions due to the unusually wet weather,” he said.

Smooth transition from Georgia

Overall, though, Rayfield said the deal should work well.

He said he expects a smooth transition from Georgia to Florida and in mid-October said Georgia growers were experiencing favorable growing conditions while Florida’s rains ended.

Adam Lytch, operations manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., said he’s hearing growers report fewer planted acres, particularly in bell peppers, cucumbers and squash.

“I think everyone should be expecting less production,” Lytch said in mid-October. “That reduction is due to depressed markets from last year and they’re still not recovering from the freeze events in the prior two years.”

Lytch said Florida’s crops look strong and characterized quality as better than recent years.

The rain is expected to affect Belle Glade corn and beans.

“The fall crops in the Glades have been extremely hampered by rain, ours’ and everyone else’s,” Gene Duff, executive vice president and general manager of Pioneer Growers Co-op, said in mid-October. “We expect to have very spotty supplies when we get down to Belle Glade sometime in November.”

While Florida usually begins corn harvesting Nov. 10-15 as Georgia starts to finish, Duff said the transition this year should be “pretty tough.”

Because of planting schedules, corn growers — unlike other Georgia growers — can’t continue harvesting, so Duff said he doesn’t expect Georgia to run late and help boost late fall supplies as Florida enters the deal with smaller than normal volume.

Tomato growers began light harvesting of central Florida grapes and cherries in mid- to late October.

Tony DiMare, vice president of the Homestead-based DiMare Co., said demand was strong as a smaller than normal Eastern Shore deal finished production in early October.

“The crop looks good to start with,” DiMare said about Florida production in mid-October. “The fruit set looks pretty good. The quality set so far looks good too. On sizing, it’s too early to tell.”

Promotable volumes

Central Florida mature-greens and romas typically begin in late October and DiMare said he expects the state to produce heavy promotable volume in mid- to late November.

Jeff Williams, president of Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC, Wimauma, said he expects central Florida’s cabbage deal to begin on time in mid-December.

“Florida volume this year should be about the same, maybe a little less,” he said in mid-October. “Quality looks good.”

Buyers should expect an earlier seasonal start for central Florida strawberries.

Favorable weather during fall plantings helped growers transplant a week earlier than normal and should see shippers sending larger volumes to the market ahead of normal, said Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Plant City-based Wish Farms.

“We are anticipating having fruit before Thanksgiving this year,” he said in mid-October. “Buyers should expect larger volume early. We anticipate having some early production this year.”

By mid-November, Florida’s citrus growers were harvesting high volumes of grapefruit, oranges and tangerines.

“We are in full swing, finally,” Matt Reel, director of sales for Vero Beach-based IMG Citrus Inc., said Oct. 17. “We had some rain that delayed the harvest a little but now we have had some dry weather and cooler temperatures that helped get us back in the swing.”

Reel characterized quality as high and said he’s seeing larger-sized navels.

To help promote the state’s bounty, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is boosting its retail promotional program through increased funding.

Dan Sleep, senior analyst with the department’s division of marketing, said this season looks to be a favorable one.

“The weather has been kind to us,” he said in early October. “We don’t have a drought for a change. This should be a good year for our guys. We’re looking for good production and good growth.”



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