Post-Yuma vegetable markets calm

02/23/2012 06:01:00 PM
Mike Hornick

OXNARD, Calif. — It’s strangely quiet out there for growers of California spring vegetables.

In mid-February, it was a bit of a plain vanilla market in most commodities. That was good for buyers.

A year ago, by contrast, rains had decimated the Oxnard celery crop, and the fallout from a freeze in Mexico was still being felt. For those who had product to sell, they were the good old days.

“There’s been an overabundance of supply going into spring and a lot of depressed markets the last three weeks,” Russ Widerburg, sales manager of Oxnard-based Boskovich Farms, said Feb. 8. “It’s been a very mild winter up and down the coast. Supply and yield are good; demand is fair; and markets have been held in check.”

The desert growing regions of the Southwest had a few hiccups with spot freezes here and there but no significant crop damage. Texas and Florida also enjoyed near-optimal conditions. California was hit with a mid-January freeze, but that had a modest impact on vegetables.

“It’s been a pretty slow market in the last couple weeks,” Scott Deardorff, partner in Oxnard-based Deardorff Family Farms, said Feb. 14. “It’s gone down on a number of conventional veg items, celery being one. Because of ideal growing conditions, there’s been a glut on the market. A month or so ago the desert was slowed down by cold weather, but now that’s bunching up their production.”

“We’re looking for something to change in the next few weeks,” Widerburg said. “Cauliflower might have a little pop to it. Demand got better with lighter supplies the last few days.”

Farther south, in California’s Coachella Valley, desert crops were in full bloom in mid-February — everything from artichokes to spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, leaf lettuces and romaine.

“We’re harvesting some very good quality with better-than-average volumes,” said Art Barrientos, vice president of harvesting at Castroville-based Ocean Mist Farms.

“But unfortunately, broccoli has been a struggle. It’s not just us. Industrywide we’re struggling with a deflated broccoli market. Cauliflower has been somewhat of a struggle as well.

“All the other commodities have been moving along fairly well but nothing earth shattering.”

Barrientos blamed broccoli’s woes on oversupply and the effects of winter weather on the East Coast.


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