Florida freezes tighten corn, bean supplies - The Packer

Florida freezes tighten corn, bean supplies

01/28/2014 07:07:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Freezes in Florida will limit sweet corn and green bean production from the Sunshine State in coming weeks, but some areas weren’t hit as hard as others.

Bryan Biederman, partner with Scotlynn Sweet Pac Growers LLC, South Bay, Fla., examines freeze-damaged sweet corn on Jan. 28.Doug OhlemeierBryan Biederman, partner with Scotlynn Sweet Pac Growers LLC, South Bay, Fla., examines freeze-damaged sweet corn on Jan. 28. In late January, a series of freezes hammered south Florida corn and green beans. In freezes beginning Jan. 19, temperatures fell to the mid-20s in Palm Beach County and to the low 30s in the Immokalee area.

While corn crops in those regions, including Belle Glade, were hard-hit, the Homestead growing area dodged a bullet.

“The crop looks to be OK,” said Ted Wanless, chief operating officer of Belle Glade, Fla.-based S.M. Jones & Co. Inc.

As for Florida as a whole, however, Wanless said it’s been at least three or four years since the state’s winter sweet corn crop was hit this hard by Mother Nature.

Freezing temperatures also hit central Florida’s strawberry growing region, but growers typically run water to protect fruit.

In late January, Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs for the Maitland-based Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, said she hadn’t heard of damage to other Florida crops.

Bryan Biederman, partner with Belle Glade-based Scotlynn Sweet Pac Growers LLC, said the company is harvesting from warmer East Coast land but buyers should expect winter corn volume to be smaller than normal until spring production ramps up in late March and early April.

“Our February and March (Belle Glade) crops are lost,” he said Jan. 28. “But, barring a future freeze, we are on pace to plant and harvest as usual for our spring production and will hit our April and May windows.”

South Bay-based Hugh H. Branch Inc. lost up to 700 acres of winter corn, said Brett Bergmann, co-owner.

“There’s not a lot of winter production (here), but there’s been a tremendous yield reduction,” he said in late January. “Yields are down well below 50%-60%. We are in one of the more prolonged cold snaps we’ve had in the last few years.”

In late January, Bergmann and Biederman quoted $20-24.40 for wirebound crates of 4-4 1/2 dozen yellow corn, similar to what the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported on Jan. 28 for yellow, white and bicolor corn, higher than the $12.35-$14.35 the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported for the same time in 2013.

Hugh Branch was picking corn the week of Jan. 27, but that was no guarantee of what might happen the rest of the week, Bergmann said.

“In winter every day is different,” he said Jan. 27. “We’re picking some really nice corn today. But these plants are doing the opposite of what Mother Nature wants them to do.”

The 2014 freeze may not be historical, said Randy Wilkinson, president of Belle Glade, Fla.-based Wilkinson-Cooper Produce Inc., but it is a big one.

“We’ve seen a lot worse, but it’s bad enough,” Wilkinson said Jan. 27. “We won’t have much the next three weeks.”

On beans, growers disked damaged fields in Palm Beach County and quickly replanted for spring production.

The cold also damaged southwest Florida beans said Chris Tordonato, sales manager of Immokalee-based Florida Specialties Inc.

“We’re not showing a lot of damage, but there are some areas where we got some damage,” he said in late January. “It wasn’t a prolonged event but enough to make a difference. It will just lessen the yields, which are down 30%.”

On Jan. 28, the USDA reported bushel cartons and crates of machine-picked and handpicked round green beans from south Florida at $38.85-42.85, down from the $45.15-45.95 the USDA reported a week earlier.

Beans require 50-60 days from planting to harvest. Biederman said Belle Glade-area growers plan to bring normal supplies to the market when the spring deal begins in late March.

Markets Editor Andy Nelson contributed to this article.

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