Growers await better season with favorable weather and lower acreage - The Packer

Growers await better season with favorable weather and lower acreage

11/05/2010 11:44:43 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

PALMETTO, Fla. — After a disastrous 2009-10 season, Florida grower-shippers this fall say they’re ready for better deals. The prospect of fewer acres could also help strengthen prices, sources say.

Though most grower-shippers said the fall of 2009 produced strong crops, freezes that struck in January destroyed many crops such as tomatoes and bell peppers.

Doug Ohlemeier

Gene Barnett, south Florida operations manager of Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc.’s Immokalee, Fla. packing shed, looks at some bell pepper in late September. L&M grows pepper in north and south Florida and plans to start harvesting near Gainesville by late October and start its Immokalee area harvesting in early November.

Shortages ran through spring when production hit at once and crashed markets as growing areas entered on top of other deals.

Less acreage for some
Jeff Williams, president of Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC, Wimauma, said the state’s growers are talking about less planted acreage.

“The general consensus is there will be less volume down here this year, which will hopefully make what product we have worth it,” he said. “Are costs in it are a little more. Everyone in the industry, whatever the extent you’re in, needs to have a good season. This has to be a good season for us because we’re all coming off a bad season. It will be a critical season for a lot of us.”

Williams said many of the growers and companies remain unstable because of last year’s devastating experience some had never witnessed in their lifetimes.

He said the industry needs a strong rebound, but not necessarily a great one, to just get over “the disaster that was last season.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Florida planted 18% fewer tomato, 12% fewer cabbage and 2% fewer corn acres for fall production compared to fall 2009.

Bell pepper and green bean plantings were up 11% while cucumber plantings increased 6% from the previous year.

Overall, Florida’s 31,200 acres for the fall remain unchanged versus last fall, according to the USDA.

Growers optimistic
Frank Pero, corporate executive vice president of Pero Family Farms, Delray Beach, said south Florida so far has escaped hurricanes or other threatening early fall weather and said growers are showing more enthusiasm this season.

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