Produce industry officials reported little or no crop damage from the polar vortex in early January that produced record lows throughout the Midwest and East.
“We managed to get by without any damaging temperatures,” said Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland. “In southwest Florida it didn’t fall far enough. It hovered just above freezing.”
That was far from being cold enough to affect strawberries in the Plant City/Dover area, Lochridge said.
Gene McAvoy, a vegetable and horticultural extension agent based in LaBelle, Fla., said the lowest temperatures he heard of were in the low 40s.
“It was nowhere close to freezing,” he said. “There could be some higher cull rates, but there wasn’t a lot of damage.”
Although it was still too soon to know conclusively as of Jan. 8, Florida’s tomatoes also were expected to be mostly unharmed, with just light burning or slight bloom drop possible, said Skip Jonas, field compliance officer for the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Committee.
“We’re not expecting any damage,” he said.
It was a similar story in Texas, said Ray Prewett, president of Texas Citrus Mutual and executive vice president of the Texas Vegetable Association, both in Mission.
“Some citrus-growing areas got down close to 32, but we don’t worry about anything until it’s 28 or lower and stays there for awhile,” Prewett said.
The cold weather is actually welcome, he said, after a mild 2012-13 winter. Asian citrus psyllids and other pests don’t thrive as much when it’s cold.
Rob Strube, president Strube Celery & Vegetable Co., Chicago, said the distributor experienced some trouble on Jan. 7 getting employees to arrive. The company covered product with blankets loaded on trucks.
“We’re all battling getting trucks here,” Strube said Jan. 9. “Florida trucks are tight and West Coast trucks are a little on the tight side. If you have the product, you’re doing well. If you’re waiting for it, you’re sitting behind everyone. There’s good demand for produce especially if you have a truck and someone else doesn’t.”
Before the storm struck, retailers “went nuts” buying everything they could, so produce demand remained strong, Strube said
In Indianapolis, many stores were waiting for trucks to restock their produce aisle and other areas of the store, according to a Jan. 7 report from wishtv.com.
“Most of the time if we’re not able to ship, we’re able to recoup and go out the next day. This is the first time we’ve actually been shut down and unable to ship anything for 48 hours,” Dan Corsaro, Indianapolis Fruit Co. Inc.’s vice president, said in the report.
Eastern Editor Doug Ohlemeier contributed to this story.