When some berry volume begins to return, growers may even miss providing the already difficult to hit Valentine’s Day market with any significant volumes because of the freeze’s timing and the length of recovery, Crocker said.
Because of planting cycles and weather, Florida growers don’t always have enough promotable volume for Valentine’s Day shipments, shippers say.
In mid-January, Florida strawberries remained at $16.90-18.90 for flats of 8 one-pound clamshells, which represent a majority of the state’s shipments, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Flats of 12 1-pint baskets medium-large were $18.90-20.90.
Because Mexico had started ramping up its tomato shipments, tomato prices in mid-January had actually fallen, and may have fallen even more had it not been for the freeze, Lipman said.
From central and south Florida, 25-pound cartons of loose mature greens 85% U.S. No. 1 or better size 5x6s sold for $17.65, $15.65 for 6x6s and $13.65 for 6x7s. That’s lower than the week before when the same sizes sold for $19.65, $15.65-16.65 and $11.65, respectively.
Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Exchange, said there hasn’t been any concerted industry effort to assess the value of the loss. He said the freeze shouldn’t cause major disruptions to Florida’s overall winter tomato movement.
“We anticipate some of the bloom drop to manifest itself sometime in early to mid-February,” Brown said Jan. 16. “By time we get to the normal Immokalee cycle of harvesting on a normal basis in early to mid-March, it should be back to rolling along like normal.”
Richard Levine, president of Immokalee Produce Shippers Inc., estimated a 30% loss to his 500 acres of romas, grapes and round tomatoes.
“We were within a half an hour to an hour of losing everything,” he said. “It was close. But at least we’re still going.”