Celery growers expect about two weeks of reduced supply and upward pressure on prices after persistent California rains drenched Oxnard fields.

Yields were cut nearly in half at Oxnard, Calif.-based Boskovich Farms, said sales manager Russ Widerburg. The grower is harvesting 800 cartons per acre, down from the normal 1,400-1,500.

“Some of the outer stalks are getting cracks from excessive water,” Widerburg said. “They’re harvesting and dropping celery as they go. What’s going in the box is smaller. It’s salvageable but they’re stripping it down.

“With the excessive rains we’ve had in the last three weeks, the ground is not drying out,” he said. “It’s causing hopefully short-term effects on celery quality. Yields will be down for 10 days to two weeks.”

Demand is just fair, he said Jan. 5, but prices are perking up due to lack of supply.

“It was $10 last week, but I anticipate high teens in the next week or so,” Widerburg said.

Cartons of 24 out of Oxnard were selling $12.35-$14.55 Jan. 3, according to the USDA. The year-ago price was $20.35-$22.56.

“In the winter, between two-thirds and three-fourths of the entire continent’s celery is grown in Oxnard,” said David Cook, sales manager of Oxnard-based Deardorff Family Farms. Cook said he expects a week or two of forecast dry weather to boost yields.

Salinas, Calif.-based Coastline Produce has done some initial harvesting in Mexico, while its Imperial Valley, Calif., deal should start between Jan. 10-17, sales office manager Mark McBride said.

“There have been some quality issues in Oxnard, but we’re still going to have a good market in the mid-teens,” McBride said. “We can sustain something like that.”

Art Barrientos, vice president of harvesting for Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist Farms, said that while Oxnard was getting soaked, Coachella Valley got just a half-inch to an inch of rain. The real concern there was low temperatures.

Ocean Mist’s Yuma, Ariz., iceberg lettuce suffered some damage from frosts that affected the region Dec. 31 to Jan. 2. But Coachella celery was unharmed, Barrientos said.

“We dodged a bullet,” he said. “It didn’t impact the quality of the celery we have in the ground. Celery tends to hold its own and two to three days of frost is not going to cause any overall issues.”

Florida growers sustained damage in the frosts that hit that state, Barrientos said. “Mainly people focus on the citrus deal, but there was some celery affected,” he said.

“In the last week of January or the first week of February volumes should get back to normal industrywide,” Barrientos said.

Oxnard rains cut celery yield

Courtesy Ocean Mist Farms

Ocean Mist Farms workers harvest a celery field Dec. 22 in California's Coachella Valley.