For the latest news on the Florida freezes and the impact on crops and prices, see our Dec. 9 coverage: Florida freezes send prices higher as more cold weather predicted.
(UPDATED COVERAGE, 11 a.m.) TAMPA, Fla. — Consecutive nights of subfreezing temperatures are expected to bring big losses to Florida-grown green beans and sweet corn.
While growers are assessing damages on tomatoes and other vegetables from freezes that struck central and south Florida growing regions during the early morning hours of Dec. 7-8, corn and beans grower-shippers report significant damage in the Belle Glade area winter growing region from two nights of cold.
Paul Allen, vice president and partner with Pahokee-based R.C. Hatton Farms, which markets through Hugh H. Branch Inc., said some growers reported temperatures fell to 27 degrees Dec. 8.
He said the overall deal is in bad shape.
“There’s a lot of damage around,” Allen said Dec. 8. “There are going to be shortages for the next months for sure on beans and corn.”
Though growers are still viewing the damage, Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op, Belle Glade, said buyers should expect small bean volume.
“It appears that we have lost all our beans,” he said Dec. 8. “They suffered significant damage. On the corn, we are still trying to assess the damage.”
Biederman said four to five hours of 28-degree temperatures can kill plants.
As the state’s tomato deal is transitioning from central Florida’s fall crop in Palmetto-Ruskin to south Florida’s Immokalee winter deal, Reggie Brown, manager of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Committee and executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, said he’s hearing tomatoes sustained some damage.
“There is a little more damage around (from the previous night’s freeze),” he said Dec. 8. “It wasn’t a wipe-out and it didn’t put us out of business.”
Brown said the bitter cold and frost will set tomato plants back and cause bloom drop that could trim yields for several weeks.
In Immokalee, Richard Levine, president of roma and grape tomato grower-shipper Immokalee Produce Shippers Inc., said the Immokalee area didn’t experience much wind, which usually keeps temperatures from falling too low.
“We have had some freeze damage, and a lot of frost damage,” he said Dec. 8. “Some areas are perfect, while other areas got hit real well. But we are still in business, I can tell you.”
In central Florida, the weather service also forecast freezing temperatures which had strawberry growers running irrigation to protect their berries from freezing.
Mark Greeff, vice president and general manager of the eastern region for Watsonville, Calif.-based Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., which grows and packs strawberries from its Dover operation, said initial feedback from the Dec. 7 freeze shows little signs of damage.
“In the coming days, we will see if there is any real damage, especially to the flowers,” he said Dec. 7. “It is a little surprising to see it get so cold so early in the season.”
Growers are worried about next week, the week of Dec. 13, when forecasters predict another arctic front could bring weather to the Sunshine State.