In the California desert autumn nights in the 40s delayed full color on red bell peppers, but leafy greens seemed to welcome the cool.
Bell peppers nevertheless remained on track for normal volumes with ample large and extra-large sizes, even if buyers had to wait a week or two more than expected for reds to peak.
In mixed vegetables, the transition from Salinas and Santa Maria to the Coachella and Imperial valleys raised the possibility of a cooling off in broccoli prices by mid-December after months of short supply. The tight market, though, was due not just to warm-weather varieties underperforming in a cool Salinas summer but to decisions by growers to reduce acreage. At least some planned to keep limits on broccoli acreage in the desert deal, which stretches through March.
Coachella, Calif.-based Peter Rabbit Farms planned to start production of red leaf, green leaf and butter lettuce by Nov. 14, with romaine and romaine hearts to follow Nov. 20.
“That product loves the weather,” John Burton, general manager for sales and cooler at Peter Rabbit Farms, said. “It responds well to sunny days and cool nights. We didn’t think we’d start (leaf lettuce) until Thanksgiving, but we’re a week to 10 days earlier than predicted. Spinach is also slightly earlier than normal.”
Salinas, Calif.-based Coastline Produce was to start its desert lettuce in Yuma, Ariz., around Nov. 14, but just as a bridge for a few weeks. The grower-shipper has most of its winter deal in Brawley, Calif., arriving the first week of December.
In Arizona scattered fields were lost to rain damage soon after planting, according to Mark McBride, salesman for Coastline Produce. “We’re expecting at least on the front end of the Yuma deal to see some reduction in yields as a result of the rains that hit several weeks ago,” he said Nov. 5.
Art Barrientos, vice president of harvesting at Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist Farms — which grows a variety of crops in Coachella and Imperial — predicted a smooth transition from Salinas but said early volumes would be light.
“Some of our initial plantings, and this applies to the industry in general, were hit by early October rains that will impact the volume they are going to yield,” Barrientos said. “For us, the week of Nov. 25 and possibly into the first week of December, those plantings will be yielding about 85% of normal, plus or minus.”
Ocean Mist grows artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, fennel, lettuce and spinach in Coachella and broccoli and romaine in Imperial.
In bell peppers, Prime Time International LLC, Coachella, Calif., was among the first to benefit from steady demand for the crop. It started green bells by mid-October, about a week sooner than usual.
“We were fortunate to start early because the market was ready for them,” said Mike Aiton, director of marketing at Prime Time International. “The turnover and prices have been very good.”
“Compared to the last couple of years, which were not terrific for the pepper deal, summer supply was a bit shorter just because there was less acreage,” said Gene Coughlin, category director for peppers at Bakersfield, Calif.-based Sun World International. “Pricing seemed to hold better through the summer, and that kept going into the fall deal.”
Baloian Farms, which loads desert product in Thermal, Calif., started green bell pepper production in the region Oct. 28.
“We were hoping to start reds, minis and babies in about two weeks, but it’s a little cooler now so it could be as late as three weeks,” Baloian sales manager Jeremy Lane said Nov. 4.
Sun World expected to start its field-grown elongated red peppers – Le Rouge Royale – in the desert the week of Nov. 4, Coughlin said, followed by yellows in mid-November.