Prices look steady for herb crops

08/11/2009 04:50:39 PM
Abbie Stutzer

Cold and rainy weather may affect some herb crops this season, but some growers are exploring different growing practices to enhance crop quality. Herb production, demand and pricing should remain stable this year.

Thi Squire, in charge of product development and also corporate chef of Rock Garden South, Miami, said the weather has been rough in Florida. A few cold spells lasted longer than usual, which affected herb production.

Squire also said it was colder in the Northeast in early June. The weather may affect production and sales product grown in the U.S.

Andrew Walsh, president and owner of Vida Fresh, Vernon, Calif., said the company has attempted to eliminate crop issues by growing in Israeli greenhouse and net house structures.

“This will be our third season using this technology and also this season we will have more product under cover than the previous two seasons combined. This technology removes a tremendous number of variables and ensures the quality,” Walsh said.

Others in the industry reported ideal conditions for their crops.

Michele Henning, vice president of sales and marketing at Shenandoah Growers Inc., Harrisonburg, Va., said the company’s crops have experienced favorable weather, with low humidity and cool nights.

Locally grown initiatives and food safety are highly discussed issues in the herb industry this year.

Henning said the company is expanding its locally grown program. Henning said she thinks a lot of companies will begin to grow more local and regional produce.

Like Henning, Squire said she thought locally grown herbs are more popular than they have been in previous years and growers are more willing to invest in fresh herb growth.

Squire said the company helps encourage local farmers to grow more herbs locally to decrease food safety worries.

“Many companies grew overseas before. We’re now trying to do more locally so they don’t have to deal with importing issues and fuel charges.”

“Our farming and warehouse operations are both food safety certified,” Walsh said.

Sueno Tropical, El Pescadoro, Mexico, is “our only grower, so we have complete control on all aspects of planning growing and harvesting, particularly traceability and food safety,” Walsh said.

Henning said herb demand seems to be stable despite the economy.

Herb packing has been influenced by food safety and quality control this year.

Squire said the company is working on modified-atmosphere bags that help control product respiration.

“Our food safety-certified packing operation will offer several new packs this coming season: 10-pound bulk, 1-pound bag with Ziploc, 1-pound bag with Safety Seal and Ziploc bags that absorb ethylene gas to preserve shelf life,” Walsh said.

Those in industry report different outlooks for volume but agree prices are secure.

“Our volumes increase each year due to planned increases and constantly improving growing techniques,” Walsh said.

There has been a decrease in sales per client of about 5%, Penalosa said. As a company, though, Infinite Herbs has more clients.

“Prices are under immense scrutiny. Everyone is doing everything they can to make sure the bottom line is protected. Fuel and petroleum based costs are still causing operating cost to continue to rise,” Walsh said.

Penalosa and Henning noted prices are stable.



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