On April 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $40.35-45.85 for 1 1/9-bushel cartons of jumbo green peppers from Florida, up from $18.35-18.85 last year at the same time.
Larges were $30.35-36.85, up from $12.35-14.85. Mediums were $14.35-20.85, up from $10.35-12.85.
Markets that high aren’t good for anybody, Aiton said.
“It’s tough,” he said. “We can’t supply our customers with what we want. Even though the market’s high, we’re not happy, and our customers aren’t happy.”
Bell markets have been this high before, but not for such an extended period of time — likely about two months when all is said and done, Aiton said.
“I think it’s unprecedented,” he said.
“I’ve been doing this close to 30 years, and I’ve never seen markets this high for this long,” he said.
A bell pepper market like this one hasn’t been seen since 1989, the last time Florida was hit with such a devastating freeze, Monteith said.
Pepper volumes, quality, size profile and prices were expected to be closer to normal at Parsippany, N.J.-based Kings Super Markets Inc. grocery stores by late April or early May, said Paul Kneeland, the company’s vice president of produce and floral.
Until then, the company will continue to struggle with how to pitch bells to consumers, Kneeland said.
“We like to promote them more than what we’re doing now,” he said. “The cost is so high you get to that point where you have to make the decision whether to promote or not. Typically, we just pull them out.”
Green bell prices at Kings Super have actually matched or exceeded prices for colored bells in some cases, a very rare occurrence, Kneeland said. That’s spurring some customers who normally stick to greens to trade up to colored bell peppers, he said.