WIMAUMA, Fla. — Cold weather in Florida and other growing regions has kept cabbage volume low and prices strong.
Shippers say the spring deal should be marked by lower volumes and higher prices.
“Florida volume through April and May will be tight,” said Jeff Williams, president of Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC. “We have had sporadic volume this winter. We have had to wait for the plants to grow. That’s what’s has kept the market so tight.”
In early February, Williams quoted $8 for 50-pound cartons of round green medium cabbage. He said growers knew that price wasn’t accurate and that the market would increase as tightness of supplies became better known.
The following week, in mid-February, prices rose to $12.
In late February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 50-pound cartons of round green medium cabbage from north, central and south Florida districts selling for $12-14, with red mediums at $14 and 45-pound cartons of savoy medium selling for $12.
Last year in late February, the USDA reported 50-pound cartons round green medium cabbage from north, central and south Florida selling for $9.50-10; small, $8-8.50; 1¾ bushel crates and 50-pound cartons of red medium $17-18; 40-pound cartons savoy type medium $13-14.
In February, Williams said growers were getting $16 lids for St. Patrick’s Day business. He called that price extremely high, but realistic given the state of supplies. Williams said he expected prices to slowly rise through early March.
Williams said the December freezes brought Georgia’s deal to a premature end, and that light supplies from the end of the storage deal and unfavorable Florida growing conditions have made for smaller volume.
He called south and central Florida quality strong.
Hearne plans to ship from central Florida through late May.
Adam Lytch, operations manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., which grows and packs cabbage from Palatka, called green cabbage demand strong.
“Yields are down because of the cold, but it’s going to potentially be tight because everything has been slowed down a lot in Texas due to the cold,” he said in late February.
L&M typically harvests cabbage through late April before moving to south Georgia and the Carolinas.
Surviving the cold
Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op, Belle Glade, said buyers can expect promotable volume for St. Patrick’s Day.
One Pioneer grower, which packs Homestead-grown cabbage in the Wilson brand, enjoys a loyal following because of sizing and product consistency, Biederman said.
Pioneer also has Belle Glade area growers harvesting cabbage.
“So far, cabbage quality has been excellent,” he said in late February. “The cabbage market has done well in the cold weather. When north Florida is affected by the cold weather, south Florida benefits. We have had a couple of good years in terms of markets and quality.”
Biederman called demand strong. He said the deal opened in the high teens in early January but has since leveled to $8-10.
Pioneer plans to ship south Florida cabbage through April 10.
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., said south Florida cabbage wasn’t harmed by the December cold.
“The cabbage has been very consistent,” he said in late February. “We have had very good quality.”