Sluggish California broccoli and cauliflower markets likely won’t pick up until September, grower-shippers said.
There are two reasons for the slump, said John Chobanian, broccoli commodity manager for Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist Farms.
“Freight rates are high and there’s a lot of homegrown product,” he said. “It’s been a tough summer.”
Doug Classen, sales manager at The Nunes Co., Salinas, Calif., agreed.
“It’s been dull the past few weeks. Product is moving well, but right now there are just moderate supplies” because of homegrown deals, Classen said.
On Aug. 16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $7.50-8.47 for cartons of bunched broccoli 14s from California, up from $5.25-6 last year at the same time.
Cartons of film-wrapped cauliflower 12s were $8.65-9.50, up from $5.65-6 last year.
Prices likely won’t budge until at least mid-September, when supplies from regional deals begin to decline, said Mark McBride, sales manager at Salinas-based Coastline Produce.
The smaller-scale local U.S. deals continue to gain traction, McBride said.
“They’re doing a better and better job all the time, and they’re more competitive than they’ve been in the past. With the homegrowns in full swing, it’s tough out there.”
On the positive side, quality has been good this summer, Classen said.
“We’ve had good quality and condition and very consistent arrivals.”
McBride agreed, saying that the Salinas Valley hasn’t had its usual spate of super-hot late July and August weather.
“The quality is excellent,” he said.
Some locally grown broccoli and cauliflower deals began early and are on track to end late, causing California shippers even more headaches, Chobanian said.
And while export movement has been brisk, volumes are limited, he said.
“There’s only so much you can export. There’s only so much quality to go around.”
In mid-August, movement showed no sign of picking up any time soon, Chobanian said.
“The next month or so we’ll probably be in the situation we’re in now,” he said. “It will be a struggle.”
Classen didn’t expect prices to change at least through August. And some homegrown deals, he said, could run well into October.