(Aug. 8) HOLLISTER, Calif. — California bell peppers have been running hot and cold this summer as gaps and oversupplies have sent prices on wild swings and larger sizes have been scarce.
But shippers say the recent move from the San Joaquin Valley to coastal areas should resolve the problems into October.
A late start in the San Joaquin Valley, where harvests usually start around July 4 or sooner but were delayed by 10 days to two weeks, forced the valley to run into the Oxnard and Hollister deals in early August.
“The market started out good in the middle of July, and it slid down,” said Bill Christopher, managing partner in Christopher Ranch LLC, Gilroy. “We had some hot weather, and it brought all the peppers in at one time. It’s down around $5 (for a 1 1/9 bushel carton).”
Dan Holt, salesman for Pride of San Juan, San Juan Bautista, said extra-large greens in early Julywere selling as high as $18-20 for 1 1/9 bushels and $14 for 1 1/9 bushels of choice greens, but the prices started dropping again during the third week of July.
“It came down fairly quickly, and now we’re seeing f.o.b.s of $5-10,” Holt said. “In particular, there was a lack of size, and we bunched up on mediums and choice, but there was a lack of large, extra-large and jumbo. … The sizes are a lot better, and the quality’s evening out.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s market news reported that movement was slow on green bell peppers out of the San Joaquin Valley on Aug. 5, but red and yellows were increasing. Supplies of jumbos were scarce, and 1 1/9 bushel cartons of extra-large peppers were $5.85-6.85; large were $4.85-5.85; and mediums were $4.35-5.35. Extra-large and large reds were $26.85-30.85 for 25-pound cartons.
Western North Carolina f.o.b.s for 1 1/9-bushel cartons were $12-13 for green jumbos, $10-12 for extra large and $10 for large.
California’s recent bell pepper harvest has ranged between 22,500 acres in 1999 and 21,300 acres in 2002, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. During that time, average annual prices ranged from $29.80 (in 1999) to $25.50 (in 2001) per cwt. The crop brought an average of $28.60 per cwt. in 2002.
Peppers from the San Joaquin Valley will continue past their normal lifespan and into late August, shippers said. Although green production in the Central Valley had started strongly the first week of August, red peppers won’t start until the week of Aug. 11 near the coast, said Sam Maggio, marketing manager for Prime Time International, Coachella.