IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Buyers can expect ample supplies of Florida bell peppers.
Grower-shippers report stronger fall markets as rain affected south Georgia plantings.
Utopia Packing LLC, a division of Utopia Farms in Myakka City, began harvesting Oct. 18.
It expected to begin shipping promotable volumes in early November.
“We anticipate having a little more volume coming out of the fall deal,” Jim Monteith, sales manager, said in late October. “The quality is good, and the sizings should be good. Volume should be very healthy as well. The heavy rains caused some spots that were a little low but they should come around, and we shouldn’t see any significant damage.”
Monteith said he’s hearing from growers that central Florida acreage could be smaller this season.
Like other growers, J&J Family of Farms Inc., Loxahatchee, experienced some delays during planting because of heavy rains.
Brian Rayfield, vice president of business development and marketing, said south Florida plantings remain on schedule.
He said he expects markets to stay strong because rains also disrupted plantings in Georgia.
“We don’t expect the market to be going down anytime soon,” Rayfield said in late October. “Pepper costs are rising in production, and I believe there will be less acreage overall on bells. We should have a seamless transition from Georgia to Florida.”
Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., expects to begin harvesting south Florida bell peppers Nov. 4.
Adam Lytch, operations manager, said transplanting went well and he expects volume to begin almost immediately.
“The quality looks really good,” Lytch said in late October. “From the peppers we are planning to start picking in south Florida all the way through the youngest transplants, with eight to nine weeks worth of plantings in the ground now, they look consistently good. They have had as good growing conditions for the time of year as you can possibly have.
“We haven’t had any weather events that have caused things to bunch up. We expect the peppers to come off close to our projected harvest dates.”
Lytch said the plants are producing good stands and much fruit. The lack of extremely hot days keeps the plants from aborting fruit, he said.
Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC, Wimauma, planned to begin harvest in early November as usual.
“They look good,” Jeff Williams, president, said in late October.
He characterized markets as strong.
In late October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 1 1/9-bushel cartons of jumbos and extra large from south Georgia selling for $14.35-14.85 and $10.35-12.85 for large.
Last year in mid-October, the USDA reported 1 1/9-bushel cartons of jumbos and extra large from south Georgia selling for $10.35-12.85 and $9.35-10.85 for large.
Brian Arrigo, president of Southern Corporate Packers Inc., said tropical storms that affected other growing regions could help Florida demand.
“With Mexico set back a little because of tropical storms, we are hoping to see good markets through Christmas,” he said in late October.
Arrigo said quality is strong.
He characterized last season as average at best and said the markets were sluggish.
This season, Calvert Cullen, president of Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc., Cheriton, Va., said early fall markets were average.
“The plants look good,” Cullen said in late October. “Everyone has good conditions. As long as we don’t get any big rains, we should be OK.”
Cullen said last spring went well and said growers experienced strong demand and decent prices.
Because of heavy rains during plantings, Windsor Distributing Inc., Naples, expects to starts harvesting later than normal in Immokalee, said Jon Karalekas, president and owner.
“The crop overall should be OK,” he said in late October. “We haven’t had any major storms to harm it, so we should have a good fall season.”