Pepper grower-shippers predict steady prices, good supply

05/10/2012 10:27:00 AM
Sarah Krause

With no major weather issues plaguing growing areas, pepper producers expect a quality crop in steady supply to kick off the summer season.

This will mean plenty of promotable product at retail, producers said.

“The quality has been excellent, we’ve got decent supply and prices have been stable,” said Peter Quiring, president of Nature Fresh Farms, Leamington, Ontario, which produces red, yellow and orange greenhouse-grown peppers. “I think (prices) are right where they need to be for everybody to still be profitable and happy.”

At Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, good volumes from Canada are anticipated throughout the spring and summer.

“By nature, greenhouse peppers peak at certain points of the season, creating ‘flushes’ of volume that we can anticipate, enabling us to set up strategic promotions with retailers, providing them the opportunity to offer high-quality peppers at attractive pricing for their customers,” said Aaron Quon, greenhouse category director. Oppenheimer also offers organic red peppers throughout the summer.

For Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International, which offers peppers year-round, the transition from one growing area to the next will be a smooth one this season, said Mike Aiton, director of marketing.

“Once Coachella gets going, there’s going to be a lot of peppers here,” he said. “There are a lot more planted, which will bring lower retails and hopefully a lot of promotions. Quality has been outstanding, and I don’t expect that to change.”

Hothouse harvest in Coachella and Baja began the first week of May and should continue until July 4, when it transitions to the San Joaquin Valley.

The field-grown deal for both green and colored peppers will begin in July, Aiton said, adding, “We’ve had good growing conditions, heavy plantings and the plants look good and are loaded in Coachella. It should be a seamless transition with a lot of product to promote all summer long.”

Prime Time also offers field-grown, elongated red organic peppers, which are set to begin harvest in mid-May, continuing through early July, as well as seasonally grown hot peppers May through July out of Coachella.

Another California grower, Uesugi Farms Inc., Gilroy, Calif., will transition to field-grown peppers in Bakersfield, Gilroy and Brentwood, said Damon Barkdull, sales and business development at Uesugi. He said the early crops looked fine and the weather had been ideal.

Barkdull added that the hot pepper deal should be good as well. Uesugi is a year-round shipper of California-grown hot peppers, producing jalapeño, serrano and the bhut jolokia, or ghost peppers.

On the opposite coast, peppers are expected to be plentiful, producing strong markets, as well.

“It’s been going well, especially here in the spring,” said Jim Monteith, sales manager at Bradenton, Fla.-based Can-Am. The pepper deal, both bell and specialty, is new for the company this year, and Monteith said it was off to a good start. “This was the strongest pepper market I’d seen in April in several years,” he said. “We’re in peak volume now and should stay that way until we start to trail off by the first of June in the Sarasota area.”

Bobby Creel, director of business development, L&M Cos., Raleigh, N.C., said its Florida and Georgia deals overlap.

“Our north Florida and south Georgia volume will be heavy from around May 20 until we finish around the first week of July,” he said.

North Carolina peppers are set to start around June 20, wrapping up at the end of July, followed by the Michigan deal running August through Oct. 10, Creel added.

Plants are looking good in the greenhouse and are ready to be transplanted to fields, with harvest expected by mid-July, said Tom Sheppard, vice president of Sheppard Farms and president of its sister company, Eastern Fresh Growers, Inc., Cedarville, N.J.

In Ohio, transplanting of green pepper plants should begin by May 15, with the first harvest at the end of July, said Ben Wiers, vice president of operations at Wiers Farm, Willard, Ohio.

“Everything’s setting up so that it should start on time, and there might even be a slight increase (in volume),” Wiers said.

In the hothouse market, supply and quality remains consistent. “It’s a controlled environment so we can grow pretty consistently throughout the year,” said Nancy Pickersgill, event and communications manager at Mastronardi Produce, Kingsville, Ontario.

Thanks to an additional 10 acres of bells, volumes at Surrey, British Columbia–based BC Hot House Foods Inc. should increase again this year, said Kevin Batt, director of sales. The May harvest is expected to be abundant, and Batt anticipates an even greater increase for 2013 because of the addition of new growers and an acreage expansion.



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