Supplies of California desert veggies headed for shipping docks - The Packer

Supplies of California desert veggies headed for shipping docks

11/11/2010 11:52:53 AM
Don Schrack

Rain that hit the fields in October could cause a slow harvest start, even though the fields bounced back well, Coughlin said. Harvesting was scheduled to begin Nov. 5.

“We’ll be light in volume until the last week in November,” Coughlin said. “Then wrap up about the end of the year.”

Sizes are big and quality is very good, he said. Sun World packs its No. 1 bell peppers in 15- and 25-pound cartons and offers choice grade in 25-pound cartons.

The company is experimenting with limited acreage of mini sweet peppers, most of which are going to club stores, Coughlin said.

“We’re doing lighter volume now, but looking to ramp up in the next couple of years,” Coughlin said.

Picking of field grown red bell peppers was scheduled to begin by mid-November at Coachella-based Prime Time International LLC, said Mike Aiton, marketing director.

The harvest will ramp up quickly.

“We’re expecting to be running two shifts a day at our Mecca packinghouse by Thanksgiving,” Aiton said.

Prime Time’s red, yellow and green bell peppers are field-grown and hothouse-grown, but the company’s orange peppers are restricted to hothouses. The packing facility, now entering its third season, is helping to meet customer demands, Aiton said.

“We’re seeing more emphasis on bagged peppers, and the new plant can accommodate all customer requests,” he said.

Prime Time packs in one, two and three colors of bell peppers and in two-, three-, four-, six- and eight-count bags.

“The value pack is picking up momentum as shoppers look for a price item,” Aiton said. “And they have great shelf life. We have lots of customers on the East Coast and in Canada.”

Foodservice is a growing segment of Prime Time’s business, he said, in large part because hothouse growing enables the company to ship year round.

Harvesting of red and green bell peppers began the last week in October at Peter Rabbit Farms, Coachella.

“We’ll be in full swing on reds and greens by mid-November,” said John Burton, general manager.

The fall/winter bell pepper deal gets special attention at Prime Time, a 60-year-old family-owned grower-shipper now headed by John and Steve Powell,

“Seed varieties are particularly important in the fall,” Burton said. “The Powells are very particular about what seeds are planted, in what locations, which varieties come off early and which ones are late season varieties.”

As the harvest began, sizes were peaking on extra large to large and were mostly fancy, he said.

Corn is a commodity that is making something of a fall comeback in the desert this year.



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