BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Surviving the cold January weather, South Florida’s celery, lettuce and radish deals are continuing and grower-shippers expect normal harvesting.
Growers consistently harvest product throughout the winter after the deals, grown primarily in Palm Beach County, typically begin in early to mid-December.
In late winter, Florida growers were undergoing typical celery markets following an oversupply in California production, said Jason Bedsole, sales manager of eastern vegetables and citrus for Oviedo-based Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., the fresh division of A. Duda & Sons Inc.
Growers were harvesting high quality celery, he said in late February.
“Everything’s going well,” Bedsole said. “We are seeing high quality. Yield and movement are also good.”
Celery demand remains strong and during the growing season, growers experienced some demand exceeds supply situations, he said.
In late February, the USDA reported cartons and crates of 2-, 2 ½- and 3 dozen from South Florida selling for $7.95-8.95 and cartons of film bags of hearts 18s selling for $14.50-15.50.
Last season in late February, the USDA reported cartons and crates of 2-, 2 ½- and 3 dozen from South Florida selling for $22.95 and cartons of film bags of hearts 18s selling for $16.95-17.95.
Duda plans to finish harvesting in late April, as usual, Bedsole said.
Pioneer Growers Co-op expects to finish harvesting in late March.
Jon Browder, sales manager, said there is strong demand for Grassy Water-branded celery, which is marketed by various Belle Glade packinghouses.
He said cooler January weather cut yields and produced smaller sizes but spring production was improving.
“Celery quality has been very nice this year,” Browder said in late February.
South Florida’s lettuce crop survived the cold January temperatures and grower-shippers in late February were harvesting quality product.
“All the leaves are fine and the cooler weather actually makes for better quality,” Dan Shiver, co-owner of South Bay-based Hugh H. Branch Inc., said in late February. “The quality is excellent. The consistency has been good and is comparable to most years. Prices aren’t great, but there has been an abundant crop out west. The prices haven’t been bad, but there have been no real ups in the market. It’s been consistent.”
Branch’s acreage is similar to past years, Shiver said, and growers have been harvesting consistent volumes.
Branch’s growers expect to finish harvesting in early May.
Duda plans to finish production in mid-April, as usual, Bedsole said.
“Quality has been good, and demand is really good,” he said in late February. “As it’s been a little warmer than an average year, the weights are a little lighter here and there. The cool weather slowed production, but quality is nice.”
In late February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for South Florida escarole: 1 1/9-bushel cartons/crates of 18s selling for $10.95 and 24s selling for $12.95.
That’s higher than last year in late February when the USDA reported 18s at $12.95 and 24s at $14.95.
Grower-shippers report another strong year for radishes.
“Radishes have been great this year and the quality is great,” Browder said. “Volumes are good and should exceed last year’s numbers. We have similar acreage but are experiencing better yields.”
Compared to last year, the radishes didn’t receive the torrential rains that created planting gaps during the fall of 2012, he said.
“Quality has been good,” Duda’s Bedsole said. “Even with the rains we have had, they weren’t affected too much. Demand is also good.”
Bedsole characterized prices as average.
South Florida’s radishes generally ship through late May.
The USDA in late February reported cartons of 30 6-ounce film bags topped red from South Florida selling for $6.95-7.35; cartons of 14 1-pound film bags of topped red selling for $7.45-7.85; 40-pound film bags of topped red selling for $17.30-17.35; 25-pound film bags topped red selling for $11.45-11.70, similar to last year in late February.