“I think the early blight and other weather-related problems will be cleared up soon,” Weisinger said in late October. “I think we’ll see a true Florida fall crop. They’re just grazing into these crops, and once they get into the second and third hands it’ll be more appealing to buyers.”
David Neill, president of Fort Pierce, Fla.-based Neill’s Farm and Big Red Tomato Packers, agreed that the tomato deal will get progressively better as the temperatures fall seasonally. But at his farm on the east coast of Florida, at any rate, early production has been good.
“My crops look good, and we’ve had good size,” Neill said. “We’ve been getting 85% to 90% five-by-sixes.”
In Plant City, meanwhile, the grape tomato crop at Ag-Mart Produce Inc. has been unaffected by the heat and rain of the growing season, said Robert Meade, sales manager.
“We see good quality,” Meade said. “For the next month or so, I don’t see anything affecting it.”
Some of the state’s premier bell pepper producers were looking for a break from the heat in late October.
“The crops are coming along real well, but it’s too hot,” said Frank Pero, vice president of Delray Beach, Fla.-based Pero Packing & Sales Inc. “It needs to cool off. Until it cools down, we won’t see the real jumbo, jumbo pepper.”
Pero said about 70% of his production normally runs to the jumbo size, but in the early going this fall he has only got about 40% to 50% jumbos. He said he looked for a break in the weather and a boost in production by the first week of November.
Theo Rumble, president of Fresh Start Produce Sales Inc., the Delray Beach-based sales agent for Thomas Produce Co., Boca Raton, Fla., said his firm is off to a better start than last year. He said the sizing and yields were down on the first Florida pepper, but quality was very good.
The market was better than a year ago. Growers said 1 1/9-bushel cartons of green bell pepper were selling at $14.85 for extra-large sizes in late October. By early December last season, prices were $10-10.85 for jumbo, $8-8.85 for extra-large, $6-6.85 for large and $5-6.85 for medium, according to the USDA.
Fall bell pepper plantings in Florida will total 4,900 acres, according to the statistics service. That compares to 4,500 acres last season and 7,000 acres in the fall of 2000.