(UPDATED COVERAGE, March 8) Low temperatures have damaged as much as a quarter of south Florida’ spring sweet corn and harmed the region’s green beans.
The temperatures sunk into the mid-20s during the overnight hours of March 4 affected demand and sent bean prices soaring.
“There are no beans on the lake (Lake Okeechobee region),” Gary Stafford, salesman and green beans manager with Hugh H. Branch Inc., South Bay, Fla., said March 7. “We’re hearing $35 for beans. We have had weather events that knocked out our productivity. The wind we had a couple of weeks ago and heavy rains accompanied by freeze events this week, they have eliminated our production.”
While prices increased for beans, early March saw little initial movement on corn.
On March 6, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said white corn was in light supply and reported wirebound crates of 4-4 1/2 dozen yellow and bicolor corn selling for $10.35-12.35 while white fetched $12.35-14.35.
For beans, the USDA on March 6 reported supply was insufficient to establish a market, but the day before reported bushel cartons/crates of handpicked round green beans from central and south Florida at $24.85-26.85 with machine-picked selling for $24.85-26.95.
That’s higher than in mid-February when handpicked cartons sold for $14.85, rising to $20-22.85 in late February.
Stafford on March 7 quoted similar prices for corn.
“We have damage and are looking at 20%-25% of the corn crop being lost,” Arthur Kirstein, coordinator for the office of agricultural economic development for the Palm Beach County Extension Service, West Palm Beach, Fla., said on March 6. “It got to 25 degrees in some specific areas for quite a while.”
“It seems like there was quite a bit of damage around but we’re not sure on the acreage,” said Jon Browder, sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op, Belle Glade, on March 6. “Temperatures hit as low as 27-28 degrees in some areas where there were pockets of cold and we had 30-35 degrees in general temperatures for a couple hours.”
Kirstein said he expects growers to replant some of Palm Beach County’s 20,000-24,000 acres of corn, which typically is harvested starting in early April.
Other vegetables, berries and citrus escaped damage.
Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Wish Farms, Plant City, Fla., said freeze protection systems helped protect central Florida’s blueberries.
“The cold weather had no effect,” he said March 7. “In our region, we feel very comfortable that we haven’t been impacted by the cold at this point.”
Bill Braswell, president of the Bartow-based Florida Blueberry Growers Association, said he expects minimal berry damage.
“Every farm has a degree of damage in Florida,” he said March 7. “That is 1%-2% which mostly occurred in February. We’re still going to produce 25 million pounds this season.”
Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs for Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland, said she hasn’t heard of any other Florida crop damage.
Temperatures didn’t remain in the high 20s long enough in the north end of the state’s citrus belt to cause damage, said Andrew Meadows, director of communications for Florida Citrus Mutual in Lakeland.
Initial reports show little damage in Georgia, said Charles Hall, executive director of the La Grange-based Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association.
“I don’t think it’s a major problem,” he said March 5. “It may have gotten close to freezing but not enough that matters.”
Hall said Georgia growers haven’t started transplanting crops; cabbage and leafy greens dominate production now. He said blueberries and peaches haven’t budded yet.