Crocker said growers suffered some freeze burn after high winds blew away the water protection growers sprayed on their fields during the evening and overnight hours of Jan. 2.
“When you look at the amount of berries we lost, some of the green berries turned black,” Crocker said. “It was a sigh of relief that we protected the plant. But outward signs show we probably had a bigger loss than what we originally projected.”
Crocker said he expects the losses to increase by the end of January as growers finish their early January pickings. He said growers expect to report a $7 million equivalent loss the week of Jan. 14.
Florida’s continually increasing strawberry deal had growers planting 8,320 acres this season, up from last season’s 7,500 acres.
Florida’s strawberries ship in their highest volumes January through March.
Prices had already started increasing in early January.
Florida strawberries had jumped to $16.90-18.90 for flats of eight 1-pound clamshells, up from $14.90-16.90 in early January, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The tomato market, however, had not begun reacting yet. From central and south Florida, 25-pound cartons of loose mature-greens 85% U.S. No. 1 or better in 5x6s sold for $19.65, $15.65-16.65 for 6x6s and $11.65 for 6x7s.
That’s lower than $21.65-23.65 for 5x6s, $17.65 for 6x6s and $10.65-13.65 for 6x7s reported the week before.
For other produce, Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs for Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland, said the state didn’t sustain any significant damage.
“There were some pockets of damage depending on where people were located, but all in all it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been,” she said.
Lochridge said the freeze caused some scarring and wind damage to the very young or small Belle Glade-area green beans plants. The damage, she said, should make for a little less yields.
Peak green beans movement normally occurs in February, March and April.
LITTLE EAST COAST DAMAGE
Frank Pero, vice president of Pero Vegetable Co. LLC, Delray Beach, said the freeze didn’t harm crops on the warmer East Coast cropland.
“We went through it well and didn’t sustain any damage,” he said. “We covered everything well.”
The freezing temperatures didn’t cause major losses to Georgia vegetables. Growers reported little damage, said Wendy Brannen, executive director of the Vidalia Onion Committee, Vidalia, Ga.
She said rain that fell before the freeze helped insulate onions. The low temperatures, Brannen said, didn’t persist long enough at the onions’ early growing stage to cause any significant damage.
Because other Georgia vegetables hadn’t been planted yet, Charles Hall, executive director of the La Grange-based Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, said the industry wasn’t harmed.
Georgia plantings normally begin in early to mid February.