Florida spring vegetables deal marked by shortages - The Packer

Florida spring vegetables deal marked by shortages

03/09/2010 11:17:11 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

IMMOKALEE, Fla. —  Knocked down by an extended cold spell that ravaged many of their winter vegetables crops, Florida grower-shippers were recovering and planning for more normal spring shipments on some items.

Doug Ohlemeier

Matt Powell (left), salesman for Orrin H. Cope Produce Inc., Homestead, Fla., and Orrin Cope, president, examine cartons of squash on the docks at Strano Farms, Homestead. Sustaining some damage from the January freezing weather, prices for south Florida’s winter squash in late February began escalating to high levels. The crop still suffered damages in areas such as Immokalee which kept February prices high. Cope said squash was just starting to return to production in mid-February and that he expects bigger volumes to hit the by early March.

While a disastrous freeze struck growing regions throughout the state in early to mid-January, rainy, cold and cloudy weather that has gripped the state since hasn’t helped their crops grow.

The freezing weather, which struck Jan. 3-12, created large winter and early spring supply gaps for tomatoes, green beans, sweet corn and bell peppers.  

Though Pacific Collier Fresh Co. thought it would return to normal pickings of its bell peppers and squash by mid-March, the colder weather has pushing pickings back to later in the month.

“There is no volume here,” Jim Monteith, sales manager, said in late February. “These 40-degree nights are definitely slowing things down. It’s not looking too promising for that mid-March slot.”

Adam Lytch, operations manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., said temperatures during the freeze broke all kinds of records and said that was the coldest 13-days south Florida had experienced since the 1940s.

“And we have not had any good growing weather since then,” he said in late February. “We have had cool, cloudy and rainy days.

Big supply gaps
Grower-shippers say volume of many items such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, green beans and sweet corn was but a fraction of what it should have been in February and buyers had to scramble to source product from other regions after large shipping gaps developed.

The continuous nights of freezing temperatures in January destroyed nearly all of the state’s winter beans and corn grown in Belle Glade and Homestead, and wiped out most of the state’s winter mature green tomatoes that are grown primarily in Immokalee.

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