A cold and wet winter and early spring helped push back many south Georgia vegetables.
Georgia growers produce bell peppers, cucumbers, squash and eggplant.
Though some pepper harvesting begins May 15, the deal usually begins in earnest May 20-24 and this year isn’t an exception.
Growers expect harvesting to start May 25.
“The peppers look good,” Steve Sterling, salesman for the Lake Park, Ga.-based Fresh Link Consolidation LLC, the sales firm for Coggins Farm and Produce Inc., said in late April.
“Central Florida normally goes to late May on the bells. The transition usually goes well, but it depends on quality and how much rain they get. I think there could be some gaps this year between the two due to the weather.”
In late April, Sterling characterized Florida pepper prices as higher than normal.
Quoting $18-$20 for large peppers, Sterling said prices were cheap most of the winter and didn’t exceed $12 until April when prices began to climb.
On May 6, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 1 1/9-bushel cartons of jumbos and extra larges from all Florida districts selling for $18.35 with large at $14.35.
Sterling attributes the higher prices to fewer plantings.
Dug Schwalls, sales director for Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable Inc., Norman Park, Ga., said peppers look strong.
“They look great,” he said in late April. “The plants look really healthy. There are some areas where some plants are yellow-looking because of excess water, but for the most part, they look very good.”
Schwalls said last fall was a disaster because viruses struck many growers’ fields.
Calvert Cullen, president of Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc., Cheriton, Va., said bell peppers look good.
“We are anticipating a smooth transition from Florida as long as we’re not in it longer than a week behind. Usually, we have a week overlap, which is what you want.”
Georgia typically ships into early July.
Though Georgia growers in many years begin cucumber harvesting in early May, the deal normally doesn’t begin until mid-May.
Coggins’ Sterling said the grower plans to start May 15.
“I’d say they look pretty decent considering the weather they’ve been through,” he said in late April. “The quality will be good.”
Sterling said Florida enjoyed high markets for most of the winter.
According to the USDA, 1 1/9-bushel cartons of waxed medium cucumbers from central and south Florida on May 6 sold for $10-10.35 with cartons of 24s selling for $3-3.35.
Northampton, which grows and ships from south Florida to Virginia, plans to begin production May 10.
“They are looking good right now,” Cullen said in late April. “The fall went well. We had good quality and good demand. So far, this spring is going well too. Demand has been decent.”
Southern Valley plans to begin May 15.
Schwalls said buyers should expect less volume.
“Overall, the cucumber volume should probably be down in Georgia,” he said. “I don’t think there are as many cucumbers planted this year.”
Schwalls said many non-pole grown cucumbers sustained extensive cold and hail damage in late March.
Georgia’s squash normally starts in late April.
Though the growers who grow for J&S Produce Inc. in Mount Vernon, Ga., usually target an April 20 start, cold weather in recent years has prevented that early of a start, said Joey Johnson, president.
“We won’t have big volume to start and won’t hit heavy volume until after May 15,” he said in late April. “We will run strong through late October.”
In late April, Johnson said the plants weren’t blooming that much but said the fields looked strong.
Northampton began its squash harvesting April 25 and Cullen said Florida growers enjoyed a favorable winter market.
“The squash market has been very strong because there’s been no volume (in Florida),” he said in late April. “We’re starting to get decent volume now.”
In late April, Cullen said yellow squash in mid-April hit as high as $20 a carton while green fetched $8.85 and yellow fancy grade in late April sold for $12.85.
On May 6, the USDA reported priced of $12.35-12.85 for ½- and 5/9-bushel cartons of small zucchini from south Georgia and $8.35-10.85 for medium. Yellow straightneck small received $14.35-16.95 and medium received $12.35-14.95. Small yellow crooknecks in ¾-bushel cartons received $16.35-18.85 and mediums received $10.35-14.85.
Cullen said the transition from Plant City, Fla., to south Georgia usually goes well.
Coggins planned to start its harvesting in early May.
Sterling said many growers didn’t plant anything initially because of the cold weather, but, as soon as temperatures warmed planted much product.
“During the transition, you have guys down there who are usually a little bit cheaper because they need to keep the business down there as they clean up on their stuff,” Sterling said.
“Up here, prices are usually a little higher because buyers have less freight, it’s newer product and there’s more demand.”
Grower-shippers said good eggplants were hard to find in mid-April and kept prices a little higher than usual because Florida and Mexico were shipping lower supplies.
Northampton’s Cullen said Florida growers endured a rough winter.
Low temperatures harmed quality and sent prices to $22.85 a box for fancies compared to the $12-14 normal markets.
On May 6, the USDA reported 1 1/9-bushel cartons of mediums from central and south Florida selling for $20.35-20.85, with medium fair quality selling for $12-12.35.
Cullen said the transition from Florida to south Georgia normally goes well but said Georgia growers will likely want to begin as quickly as they can to help fill the expected void between the two regions.
Northampton plans to begin Georgia harvesting in late May, as usual.
“They are looking great,” Cullen said in late April. “They weren’t held back by the weather. They’re coming right along.”
Coggins plans to begin its eggplant harvesting in early June, with larger volume beginning in mid-June, Sterling said.
“The eggplant I’ve seen look great,” he said in late April. “There will be good volume of eggs. By mid-June, retailers will want to be putting them on ad.”
South Florida in late April wasn’t shipping many eggplants, said Southern Valley’s Schwalls.
For Georgia, Schwalls said eggplant quality looks strong.
Southern Valley plans to begin eggplant harvesting May 25.