Florida sweet corn, beans feel frost’s bite - The Packer

Florida sweet corn, beans feel frost’s bite

03/20/2009 12:00:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

(March 20, 2:25 p.m.) Buyers should expect smaller volumes and higher prices of some Florida spring vegetables until mid- to late April after sweet corn and green bean production recovers from killer winter freezes.

F.o.b. prices reflected gaps and shortages caused by a series of freezes that struck Florida growing regions in late January and early February.

Florida sweet corn and beans skyrocketed to $25 and $34 respectively in the weeks following the severe cold that wiped out most of Belle Glade’s winter corns and beans.

Prices for bell peppers and squash also heated up, though in mid-March had begun declining as spring production was preparing to start.

“The prices reflect the only source of corn now is coming out of Homestead,” said Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op, Belle Glade. “We’re getting all our corn out of Homestead, as the supply is low.”

Biederman in mid-March said he expects Lake Okeechobee-area corn to begin in production around April 20, more than a month later than normal. He said he doesn’t expect any big change in corn or beans prices until volume resumes.

Soaring prices

South Florida beans escalated from $14.85 for bushel hampers, cartons and crates of handpicked in January to $25 in mid-February. In mid-March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported $33-34 for handpicked beans.

For handpicked Mexican bean crossings at Nogales, Ariz., 30-pound cartons or crates sold for $36.95-38.95 in mid-March.

Corn also jumped, from $16.85-18.85 for wirebound crates of 4-4 1/2 dozen yellow with white and bicolor from south Florida selling for $18.85-20.85 in mid-February to $24.85-25.85 for all three colors in mid-March.

From Mexico, crates of white corn sold for $14.95-16.95.

Last year, the three colors sold for $7.70 from south Florida.

Gary Stafford, salesman with Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee, Fla., said his Palm Beach County growers have had few beans to sell.

He said the market may dip a little, but it shouldn’t be a substantial decline because bean volume won’t return strong until after Easter on April 12.

“We have had freezes and/or frosts since Jan. 22. It has just taken its toll,” Stafford said March 17. “The market will remain strong until the volume improves. Easter demand will take up a lot of that increased volume in the early part of April.”

Stafford said Immokalee, Fla., growers weren’t producing much bean volume either.

While Homestead bean volume normally ends in mid-April, Belle Glade typically starts in March and finishes by May 10.

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