Shipping hangups, big supply keep brussels sprouts prices down

03/21/2014 11:45:00 AM
Jim Offner

Courtesy World Variety ProduceGrowers and shippers of brussels sprouts say the crop is faring well in Mexico, as it did in the fall and early winter season in California.

There have been few problems on the production side, said James de Lorimier, account and commodity manager for Salinas, Calif.-based Growers Express.

“Overall, it’s been good out of Mexico,” he said.

At the end of February, production was at its midpoint in Mexico, which generally ships product from December through June.

“We’re right in the middle of our six-month Mexico season, with excellent quality and volume,” said Butch Corda, general manager of Salinas-based Ippolito International LP, which has Mexico production in Erindia and Santa Tomas.

Things are looking up for Guadalupe, Calif.-based Beachside Produce LLC as well, said Bob Montgomery, sales manager.

“We’re getting good yields, and the acreage that has been planted is up a little bit to keep pace with the increase in demand for brussels sprouts,” he said.

Bad weather in the eastern U.S. was creating a drag on shipments, though, suppliers said.

That has been a weight on prices, Montgomery said.

“The price has gone down the last month or two, and a lot of it has to do with the weather back east, with all the cold and snow and everything that goes along with it,” he said. “People are not able to go shopping, so we’ve seen a marked decline in the last month.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in mid-March f.o.b. prices on 25-pound cartons of brussels sprouts from California’s Central Coast, were $16.61-18.95. A year earlier, the same product ranged from $16.98-25.35.

Overall, though, demand has remained good, Montgomery said.

Weak markets

Russ Widerburg, sales manager at Oxnard, Calif.-based Boskovich Farms Inc., also noted weather problems in the east, combined with ideal growing conditions in Mexico, had raised some concerns.

“Production in Mexico has been steady and increasing, and the market dipped to the $10-11 range and has kind of bounced back into the low teens,” he said.

Widerburg said he hoped prices would “creep up a little more” in March.

“The problem is, because of unseasonably warm temperatures out here, we’re harvesting pretty much all items pretty much 10-20 days ahead of schedule, so there’s been excessive supply on pretty much everything, brussels sprouts included,” he said.

That, combined with the bad weather in the east, isn’t good for the market, he said.

“With the weakened demand because of the East Coast weather, it has affected markets pretty much across the board,” he said.

Henry Dill, sales manager for Salinas-based Pacific International Marketing, also noted weak market conditions.

“That’s kind of kept the market down at some pretty cheap levels compared to where it was last year,” he said.

California districts were cleaning up later than usual, which exacerbated the situation, he said.

“Typically, those guys are pretty much gone after Christmastime, but this year they extended their season to almost a month and a half longer, and that extra volume made it for a tough market this year on our Mexican stuff,” Dill said.

Dill said the market was still not great, thanks to winter’s extended stay.

“The weather has made it tough for movement for the East Coast,” he said.

Organic

On the organic side, Brian Peixoto, sales manager for Lakeside Organics, said his Watsonville, Calif., company reaches for year-round production and should make that goal this year.

“This year’s been really good, and I think the weather has placed an important role in it,” he said. “The aphids stayed at bay, for the most part, and we had brussels really late in the season here.”

Lakeside is shipping up to 200 cases of organic sprouts a day, he said.



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