Coachella’s sweet pepper crops are running slightly late because of a February freeze, but grower-shippers say quality is good and supplies should be normal.
Coachella, Calif.-based Peter Rabbit Farms’ first spring desert crop is green bell peppers. John Burton, general manager, said green bells got started about April 20 and were going strong by April 28. In April, he said the green bells looked good. They were large with dark color and thick walls.
Peter Rabbit expected to begin harvesting red bell peppers during the first week of May. Burton said the red pepper pipeline would be empty when the Coachella district began harvest. Demand was strong for red peppers on the East Coast in April, so he predicted good demand when Coachella got underway.
“The green pepper deal could be hot also,” he said. “I don’t like guessing on prices, but I heard 15-pounders were selling around $30 (on the East Coast), so back here it will probably $25 f.o.b.”
An early February freeze pushed back harvest and caused some crop losses. Peter Rabbit Farms replanted, and Burton said volumes should be similar to last year’s. Burton said the company replanted about 70% of its green peppers and about 20% of its red peppers.
“The freeze was a big one,” he said. “It caught everyone by surprise and was devastating for a lot of folks.”
Weather delayed Mecca, Calif.-based Richard Bagdasarian Inc.’s bell pepper crop by seven to 10 days, said Franz De Klotz, vice president of marketing. The Coachella harvest got started April 19 for green bell peppers, he said, and red and yellow bells should start 10-14 days later.
Bagdasarian increased its acreage of organic green, red and yellow bell peppers and eggplant, De Klotz said. The peppers will be available in a new 15-pound carton, in addition to the typical 25-pound carton. This is Bagdasarian’s third year of organic vegetable production.
Coachella-based Prime Time International’s pepper crop also looked like it would be ready later than usual, said Mike Aiton, director of marketing.
Prime Time expects to begin harvesting its first crop of mini red, yellow and orange sweet peppers on about May 20 in Coachella, Aiton said. Mini sweets also will be harvested in Bakersfield, Calif., Oxnard, Calif., giving Prime Time a steady supply through June.
Sun World International LLC, Bakersfield, Calif., expected to begin harvesting peppers in Coachella in May, said Gene Coughlin, category director for peppers. Its main pepper crop is red field-grown peppers. In April, Coughlin said he expected a normal, full crop of sweet peppers this season. It also grows sweet mini peppers, which should be available from mid-May through June.