Corn starts late in Sunshine State

04/30/2013 05:39:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — After recovering from a freeze, Florida sweet corn grower-shippers are entering peak spring production.

click image to zoomBrett Bergmann, co-owner of Hugh H. Branch Inc., South Bay, Fla., displays some bicolor corn in late April. Doug OhlemeierBrett Bergmann, co-owner of Hugh H. Branch Inc., South Bay, Fla., displays some bicolor corn in late April. Florida sweet corn grower-shippers began entering peak spring volume, later than the normal mid-April start after a March freeze stunted early season productionIn late April, Florida growers began harvesting the crop that was stunned by a March 4 freeze.

They say the freeze only delayed the start of production, which normally begins in mid-April.

Buyers should also expect a slightly later Georgia start.

“Our quality in Florida is excellent,” Randy Wilkinson, president of Wilkinson-Cooper Produce Inc., said April 29. “The freeze was bad to one of our growers but not to the rest. This is probably the best drop we’ve ever had this time of the year.”

Wilkinson-Cooper plans to harvest in Florida through June 1 but ship lighter volume after the late May season peak.

Florida normally ships promotable volume through Memorial Day but shipments decrease after the holiday as Georgia begins ramping up in late May, Wilkinson said.

Because Georgia growers experienced a cooler-than-normal spring, Brett Bergmann, co-owner of Hugh H. Branch Inc. in South Bay, said that region may start a day or two later than normal and should ship light volume through late May.

“Quality is good and varieties are good,” Bergmann, describing Florida corn, said in late April. “The deal is going pretty good and we’re in promotable volume.”

Prices lower

On April 30, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported wirebound crates of 4-4 1/2 dozen yellow, white and bicolor corn from central Florida selling for $9.45-9.95, down from the $16.35 those same varieties fetched in late March.

In late April last season, growers quoted $9.20 for the same sizes and varieties.

The growers who own S.M. Jones & Co. Inc. began harvesting in late April.

Ted Wanless, chief operating officer, said buyers should expect strong volume throughout May.

“The deal is good and it’s really going strong,” he said April 29. “We have very good quality. We are looking for a strong Memorial Day shipping period.”

Wanless said he expects Georgia to begin in late May as normal but won’t ship promotable volume until early June.

Bryan Biederman, partner with Scotlynn Sweet Pac Growers LLC, South Bay, said despite the freeze, there was some corn in the region in early and mid-April. He said the freeze hindered normal promotable volume.

Scotlynn Sweet Pac’s growers began harvesting April 24 and Biederman said he expected promotable volume to commence May 3.


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