January freezes raise broccoli, cauliflower prices

04/04/2007 12:00:00 AM
Andy Nelson

(April 4) Lingering problems from mid-January freezes in California have caused supply hiccups in spring broccoli and cauliflower deals and raised prices, including cauliflower prices that are double what they were last year.

As production shifts from Yuma, Ariz., to Salinas, Calif., a supply gap has developed, limiting supplies and pushing up demand and prices, said Drew Barsoom, broccoli and cauliflower program manager for Tanimura & Antle Inc., Salinas.

“It’s been choppy due to the cold weather, and the markets have been pretty strong,” he said. “Broccoli took a little longer to react than cauliflower.”

Quality also has been an issue, he said.

“It’s been hit and miss,” Barsoom said. “There’s been some yellowing, hollow core and big bead on broccoli and discoloration on cauliflower.”

Tanimura & Antle’s Yuma harvest was set to end April 6, with Salinas taking over 100% of production by the week of April 9, Barsoom said.

Ten days of cold weather in January will probably translate into six weeks of uneven harvests this spring, said John Baillie, owner of Baillie Family Farms/Tri-Counties Packing Co., Spreckels, Calif.

“It’s going to be a bit of a roller coaster in April and maybe into May,” he said. “There are some fields where the stands are real spotty, if they made it through at all. Some were totally lost.”

Steinbeck Country Produce Inc., Salinas, wrapped up its Yuma broccoli season in late March and expected to finish its Yuma cauliflower harvest the week of April 9, said Greg Beach, vice president.

On April 3, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $8.35-8.45 for cartons of bunched 14s of broccoli, up from $5.35-7.45 last year at the same time.

Cartons of film-wrapped 12s of cauliflower were $18.35-21.35, up from $8-10.35 last year at the same time.



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