Grower-shippers expect ample high-quality supplies of most Thanksgiving produce staples this year, with green beans the notable exception.
Bean supplies will be about half of normal for the holiday this year due to excessive rains in the Belle Glade, Fla., growing area during the past two months, Jon Browder, sales manager for Belle Glade-based Pioneer Growers Co-op, said Oct. 22.
And other growing areas won’t likely be able to pick up much of the slack.
“During this time of year Northern Florida is too cool, and in Homestead there aren’t as many growers as there used to be,” Browder said.
On Oct. 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $18.35-20.85 for bushel crates/cartons of machine-picked green beans from Georgia, up from $14.35-15.85 two years ago at the same time.
The USDA does not have prices from October 2013 because of the government shutdown.
Because of an early end to the 2013 storage crop and strong demand out of the gate, a “tremendous amount” of sweet potatoes were shipped green early in the season, said Brenda Oglesby, sales manager of Faison, N.C.-based Southern Produce Distributors Inc.
But Thanksgiving should be another story, said Stewart Precythe, Southern’s president and chief executive officer.
“North Carolina will have good-quality cured product in volume for the holidays. I don’t think there will be any green out of North Carolina.”
Sweet potato markets should stay stable through October before ad prices kick in for Thanksgiving, he said. Southern expects typical promotional activity for this year’s holiday.
The USDA reported prices of $18-22 for 40-pound cartons of orange No. 1 sweet potatoes from North Carolina, up from $13-15 two years ago.
The week leading up to Thanksgiving is the biggest week of the year for granny smith sales, said Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Columbia Marketing International LLC.
“It’s a pretty impressive spike,” Lutz said, with volumes doubling in some cases over typical weeks. Pies and other baked goods are the big draw for grannys at Thanksgiving, he said.
Quality is good on early-season granny smiths, and CMI expects a full crop of the variety, Lutz said.
The apple category as a whole typically dips in the run-up to Thanksgiving, as consumers are focused more on their big meals and less on snacking, Lutz said.
The USDA reported prices of $24 for carton tray packs of granny smith 72-88s from Washington, down from $25-28 two years ago.
Through Oct. 22, with growers still in the middle of harvests, Wisconsin cranberry volumes were running about 20% behind last year’s record-setting crop, said Bob Wilson, managing member of The Cranberry Network LLC, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., which markets fruit grown by Tomah, Wis.-based Habelman Bros. Co.
That’s not all bad news, since markets have been oversupplied, Wilson said. In fact, some growers may try to divert processing cranberries into the fresh market this season because of “terribly depressed” processing prices, he said.
That could lead to a dilution in quality, since cranberries grown for the processing market are different than those grown for the fresh market.
“You can’t just turn a processing bed into a fresh bed,” Wilson said.
Fresh-market prices could come down on some product, but The Cranberry Network’s prices should stay steady.
“We’ve had the same pricing schedule for the past six years.”
The USDA reported prices of $30-34 for 24 12-ounce film bags of medium early black cranberries from Massachusetts, down from $36 two years ago.
There were some issues early in the deal with potatoes shipping straight from the field, but for Thanksgiving, everything will be coming out of storage, and quality should be excellent, said Dick Okray, president of Okray Family Farms Inc., Plover, Wis.
“Retailers will be promoting heavily, which is good,” Okray said.
The size profile on Thanksgiving russets could be a bit larger than average, he said.
The USDA reported prices of $8-9 for 50-pound cartons of russets 40s-80s from Wisconsin, up from $6-6.50 two years ago.