BELLE GLADE, Fla. — During the fall and winter, Florida grower-shippers send other vegetables, such as eggplant, lettuce, celery and radishes, to the market.
Though better known for its traditional southern vegetables, the peninsula is a major grower-shipper of those commodities during other growing areas’ off-season.
Lower prices characterized the eggplant market in October as central and south Florida shippers prepared to start their fall eggplant deals.
Mike Shier, sales manager for vegetable department of Six L’s Packing Co. Inc., Immokalee, called the eggplant market depressed.
Shier in mid-October quoted $6-8 for 1 1/9-bushel cartons including wrapped mediums of eggplant.
“Georgia has come in with a tremendous amount of eggplant for the fall,” he said. “Georgia probably has a bigger crop than normal. There’s a fair amount of acreage there this year.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 1/9-bushel cartons including wrapped mediums from south Georgia in late October sold for $8.35-10.85.
As production normally starts in mid- to late November and ends by early April, Florida’s prime leaf and lettuce growing season runs January through March.
Some escarole and romaine begin harvesting in mid-November with lettuce starting in mid-December.
Planting began in late September and in October.
Jason Bedsole, sales manager of eastern vegetables and citrus for Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., the fresh division of Oviedo-based A. Duda & Sons Inc., called last season strong.
“We had a very good quality and strong crop,” he said. “We are building on this again this season.”
Bedsole said lettuce pricing often follows California, but can be slightly higher because of the offset of freight costs for East Coast deliveries.
Duda grows a full line of lettuce, including endive, escarole, green leaf, red leaf, iceberg and boston lettuce.
Growers for Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee, planned to start endive and escarole production the last week of October with full volume of other leaf and lettuce items by Nov. 7 to Nov. 8, said Dan Shiver, co-owner.
The reason Branch’s harvesting starts a little earlier than other shippers is that Branch’s growers missed some of the rains that hit during planting, Shiver said.
“The quality looks excellent,” he said in mid-October. “We look to have a good year.”
According to the USDA, prices for cartons of 24s of romaine lettuce from Salinas, Calif., and Watsonville, Calif., in late October sold for $10-12.35.