Freezes disrupt eggplant, damage some radishes

03/02/2012 10:31:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — The early January freezes damaged south Florida winter eggplant and caused minor damage to radishes.
Aside from its traditional winter and spring Southern vegetables, Florida also grows and packs other vegetables including eggplant, radishes and broccoli.
Eggplant
Brian Arrigo, president of Southern Corporate Packers Inc., Immokalee, said the Jan. 3-4 freeze destroyed 25% of his eggplant. 
Production is returning and buyers should expect adequate supplies, he said in late February.
“It’s all coming back better now with good quality,” Arrigo said. “They look well.”
Adam Lytch, operations manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., said the January freeze destroyed all of its fall eggplant. He said he expects spring production to return on time in mid-March. 
“They’re not set on the plant yet,” he said in late February. “The plants themselves look fine. From the time they start popping out and show, they’re usually ready in about 10 days.”
Aside from the one freeze, Lytch called fall growing conditions strong and said the deal produced high volume. He called prices favorable.
Brian Rayfield, vice president of sales and marketing for J&J Produce Inc., Loxahatchee, said eggplant prices remained “strong and steady” since Florida began production.
“The market has been $12-14 and quality has been good,” he said in late February. “There seems to be just the right amount.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in late February reported 1 1/9-bushel cartons medium from central and south Florida selling for $16.35-16.35 with fair quality at $8.35-10.35, that’s higher than in mid-February when those same quantities sold for $12.35-14.35 with fair quality at $6.35-8.35.
Last year in late February, the USDA reported Florida supplies were insufficient and in too few hands to establish a market, so it in late February reported these prices for Mexican eggplant crossing through Nogales, Ariz.: 1 bushel, 1 1/9-bushel and 1 1/6 bushel cartons of wrapped 18-24s selling for $26.95 with fair quality at $20.95.
Chris Tordonato, sales manager of Florida Specialties Inc., Immokalee, called eggplant quality strong.
“They look well,” he said in late February. “The growing season has been fine. We have had a warmer winter. Eggplant struggles when it’s cold.”
Florida Specialties’ growers plan to begin harvesting in late March.
South Florida volume normally ends or slows after Christmas while spring volume resumes in late March and runs through late May. Winter production remains focused in Homestead and the warmer East Coast growing regions.
Central Florida production typically begins in mid-March and runs through mid-May.
Radishes
The early January cold weather caused only minor problems to south Florida’s radish crop.
“Some of the weather-related problems gave us a little gap here and there, but we will have steady supplies all the through into the spring,” Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op, said in late February.
Biederman said radishes remain a consistent item, not subject to high volume spikes. He called prices stable.
The USDA in late February reported cartons of topped red 30 6-ounce film bags from south Florida selling for $5.95-6.95; carton topped 14 1-pound film bags red, $6.45-7.05; 25-pound film bags topped red, $9.95-10.95; 40-pound film bags red, $14.95.
In late February last season, the USDA reported cartons of topped red 30 6-ounce film bags from south Florida selling for $5.95; 14 1-pound film bags red, $6.45; 25-pound film bags topped red, $9.95; 40-pound film bags red, $14.85.
Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., the fresh division of Oviedo-based A. Duda & Sons Inc., plans to harvest radishes through mid-May.
Jason Bedsole, sales manager of Eastern vegetables and citrus, said the deal is producing a strong crop.
“The quality and volumes are good,” he said in late February. “Demand has been good.”
South Florida radish production typically starts by early November and runs through late May.
Broccoli
Florida is producing high quality broccoli this season.
“The quality has been excellent,” Adam Lytch, operations manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., said in late February. “Yields are incredible.”
Despite a low California market, Lytch said Florida growers are receiving $8-10 for 20-pound cartons of iced and iceless broccoli depending on the contract compared to the $5.50 markets California growers fetch. 
He said the market remained depressed for more than a month and in late February said it was starting to turn around. 
After Georgia finishes its broccoli deal after Christmas, north Florida production usually commences and runs through mid-April. South Florida normally picks up in January and goes through late March. Georgia returns to production in mid-April.
L&M grows broccoli in Palatka and Clewiston and packs from its north Florida packinghouse. 


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