Supply gaps characterize early Florida spring vegetables deal

03/12/2010 12:12:48 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

IMMOKALEE, Fla. —  Knocked down by an extended cold spell that ravaged many of their winter vegetables crops, Florida grower-shippers were recovering and planning for more normal spring shipments on some items.


Doug Ohlemeier

Workers pack tomatoes at the DiMare Co., Homestead, Fla., in early February. Buyers should expect big supply gaps of tomatoes and other Florida early spring vegetables such as bell peppers, corn and beans.


While a disastrous freeze struck growing regions throughout the state in early to mid-January, rainy, cold and cloudy weather that has gripped the state since hasn’t helped their crops grow.

The freezing weather, which struck Jan. 3-12, created large winter and early spring supply gaps for tomatoes, green beans, sweet corn and bell peppers.  

Though Pacific Collier Fresh Co. thought it would return to normal pickings of its bell peppers and squash by mid-March, the colder weather has pushing pickings back to later in the month.

“There is no volume here,” Jim Monteith, sales manager, said in late February. “These 40-degree nights are definitely slowing things down. It’s not looking too promising for that mid-March slot.”

Adam Lytch, operations manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., said temperatures during the freeze broke all kinds of records and said that was the coldest 13-days south Florida had experienced since the 1940s.

“And we have not had any good growing weather since then,” he said in late February. “We have had cool, cloudy and rainy days.

Big supply gaps
Grower-shippers say volume of many items such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, green beans and sweet corn was but a fraction of what it should have been in February and buyers had to scramble to source product from other regions after large shipping gaps developed.

The continuous nights of freezing temperatures in January destroyed nearly all of the state’s winter beans and corn grown in Belle Glade and Homestead, and wiped out most of the state’s winter mature green tomatoes that are grown primarily in Immokalee.

In late February, Brett Bergmann, co-owner of Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee, said what little corn growers had was commanding higher than normal prices.

He quoted percentage or non-fancy corn selling for up to $25 a crate.

“All this winter corn has been non-fancy merchandise so far,” Bergmann said Feb. 18. “There hasn’t been any fancy sweet corn. Corn is worth a lot of money now and will be worth money until we get more supplies or when demand falls off.”


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