Cabbage shippers expect highly promotable volumes of high-quality cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day March 17.
St. Patrick’s prices will be at their most promotable levels in more than five years, said Tony Piedimonte, vice president of Wimauma-based Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC.
“There are tremendous opportunities to feature cabbage, and the quality is outstanding,” Piedimonte said. “With the economy the way it is, it’s a real value for consumers.”
Prices for the holiday will likely be in the $7-8 per-box range, Piedimonte said.
On Feb. 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $4.50-5.50 for 50-pound cartons of medium green cabbage from Florida, down from $12-14 last year at the same time.
Mike Owens, salesman for Belle Glade, Fla.-based Pioneer Growers Co-op, had heard of some prices as low as $6 per box for St. Patrick’s Day.
“It’s a tough year this year,” Owens said. “It’s really hard to tell where it will land for St. Patty’s.”
Every day, Owens said, he hears about another grower who decided to grow cabbage this year.
“From Texas all up and down Florida, everybody has cabbage,” he said. “The quality is excellent — nice wrapper leaves, good weight.”
Unlike the past two years, when shippers had to scramble to find product from different growing regions, all cabbage-producing regions in the U.S. have enjoyed good weather, Piedimonte said.
“There’s been sufficient moisture and good temperatures, and the crop has really tuned up,” he said.
Paul Dolan, general manager of Grand Forks, N.D.-based Associated Potato Growers, said a big crop of red potatoes from Florida could put a dent in the Red River Valley’s ability to promote for St. Patrick’s Day.
“I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “We could be down quite a bit from last year because of the Florida situation.”
As of Feb. 15, Associated Potato did not have as many St. Patrick’s ads lined up as the company would like, Dolan said.
Florida is expected to begin shipping heavily around the end of February, Dolan said.
“Our demand will depend on how well the Florida guys hold the market,” he said.
Despite substantial declines in prices this season, demand has not picked up as much as valley growers would like, Dolan said.
On Feb. 15, the USDA reported prices of $9.50-11 for 50-pound cartons of size A red potatoes from the Red River Valley, comparable to last year at the same time. Cartons of size B reds were $10.50-14.50, comparable to last year.
“We’re hoping March is good,” Dolan said. “March is normally a good red month.”
Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director for the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, East Grand Forks, Minn., was more optimistic about the valley’s chances of capitalizing on St. Patrick’s Day demand.
Florida growers likely won’t ship significant volumes until after St. Pat’s, meaning valley growers could get their typical 15% bump in the runup to the holiday.
“Things are starting to pick up,” Kreis said.