Following a disappointing winter, grower-shippers are seeing improved supplies as the Sunshine State’s vegetable growers transition to the new spring crop.
Heavy rains and cold snaps reduced winter production and delayed plantings, producing smaller volumes and are keeping bell pepper prices higher than normal.
The unfavorable winter could also delay bigger spring volume from beginning for about a week, grower-shippers report.
Early to mid-March supplies weren’t as much as growers desired, said Brian Rayfield, vice president of business development and marketing for Loxahatchee, Fla.-based J&J Family of Farms Inc.
“The first quarter of the year has seen fewer packages but we going to have a bigger April and May than we have ever had as a company,” Rayfield said in late March. “There should be ample supplies to support retail promotions and I think markets will be slightly stronger than normal. Once the Northeast and most of the country thaws from this winter’s blues and people start moving around and demand increases, we should see a very active spring where our supply will be as strong as demand.”
Mexico is experiencing unusually warm weather and should finish production earlier than normal, he said.
In mid- to late March, J&J was starting to harvest light volumes of green beans and cucumbers.
The grower-shipper plans to start spring harvests of bell peppers and cucumbers in late March and begin harvesting promotable volumes in early to mid-April, Rayfield said.
Yields in some places are off by as much as 30%-40% for some of the growers of Cheriton, Va.-based Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc., said Calvert Cullen, president.
Cullen said winter volume is lower than normal and said Northampton, which ships from Boynton Beach, Fla., plans to begin harvesting spring production in early April, possibly a week later than usual.
“We took a beating this winter with all the weather we had, but everything looks good now,” Cullen said March 18. “The bell pepper crop is extremely tight. Everything else is seeing tighter supplies. By mid-April, we should see the tighter supplies lessening.”
Cullen said Mexico’s production problems are helping keep demand strong.
Characterizing bell pepper prices as “extremely high,” in late March, Cullen quoted $28 for 1 1/9 bushel cartons of jumbos and extra larges.
On March 18, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for central and south Florida: 1 1/9 bushel cartons of jumbos and extra larges selling for $28.35 with large at $22.35-24.35 and $18.35-20.35 for medium and irregular sizes.
That’s higher than in late February when the jumbos and extra larges sold for $22.35 and larges and mediums garnered $18.35.
On cucumbers, the USDA reported 1 1/9 bushel cartons of waxed medium cucumbers from central and south Florida selling for $16.35 with mediums of fair cartons of 24s selling for $7-7.35.
For squash, the USDA reported 1/2 bushel cartons of zucchini from central and south Florida small fetching $12.35-14.35, medium, $10.35-12.35; 1/2 bushel cartons of yellow straightneck small, $16.35, medium, $14.35; 3/4 bushel cartons of yellow crookneck, small, $16.35, medium, $12.35.