Doug OhlemeierBrian Arrigo, president of Southern Corporate Packers Inc., Immokalee, Fla., in a bell pepper field in late January. Though heavy rains and cold temperatures during the winter lowered yields, buyers should expect promotable volumes of Florida's Southern vegetables, which include bell peppers, cucumbers, squash and eggplant.IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Following a difficult winter growing season, fraught with heavy rains and cold temperatures that lowered yields, buyers should expect promotable volumes of Florida’s Southern vegetables, which include bell peppers, cucumbers, squash and eggplant.
The winter brought sporadic bell pepper volume, said Jim Monteith, sales manager for Myakka City-based Utopia Packing LLC, a division of Utopia Farms.
Though cold weather delayed central Florida plantings a week, it shouldn’t significantly affect spring production, especially if warm weather accelerates crop production, Monteith said.
“This nice weather we’ve been getting is really helping the crop,” he said in late February. “This is what we need, and it’s long overdue. The Myakka City crop looks great.”
Buyers should expect strong quality, said Brian Rayfield, vice president of business development and marketing for Loxahatchee-based J&J Family of Farms Inc.
Normally, when Florida enters with a bumper crop in the spring prices drop drastically. That shouldn’t happen this spring as Mexico should be running out of volume as Florida ramps up, he said.
“We should have excellent volume and a quality spring crop,” Rayfield said. “The way things are shaping up, we project pricing to be slightly higher than normal for that time of the year due to Mexico finishing early. After a really good fall and a slightly lower winter, we are going to come into excellent volume for the spring. The plants are clean and disease-free.”
In late February, Rayfield quoted $24 for 1 1/9-bushel cartons of jumbos and extra larges.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in late February reported these prices for central and South Florida: 1 1/9-bushel cartons of jumbos and extra larges selling for $22.35 with large selling for $18.95 and medium and irregular sizes for $18.35.
Last year in late February, the USDA reported jumbos and extra larges selling for $8-10.95 with large selling for $8-10.
The squash market was on the rebound in mid-February and Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., was transitioning into some of its spring production, said Adam Lytch, operations manager.
Lytch said he expects volume to increase in early March.
He said prices were low in early February but said prices had doubled by later in the month.
Quality remains high and winter winds harmed plants in December and January, Lytch said.