The market had been trending down but leading up to the St. Patty’s Day push, he said he expected increased demand to tighten the market as planting should be struggling to make production on time because of extreme cold and heavy early and mid-February rain.
Though the freezes didn’t damage Florida’s crop, it nearly stopped pickings.
“They’re just not growing,” Lytch said in mid-February. “The rains have really slowed the growing down again. We should have sufficient supplies, but just not an overabundance of product.”
Lytch said the unusual weather has made for smaller head sizes.
Instead of the normal 16- and 18-count cabbage, he said L&M has been packing some cartons with as high as 30-count cabbage.
Those heads, however, have been small and firm and Lytch said sizing has been improving in mid-February.
The freezing temperatures also ended Georgia’s cabbage deal a couple of weeks earlier than normal, he said.
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 winter cabbage quality strong.
“We had some issues from the freeze, as cabbage probably got affected a little more than other items, but other than that, the issues have straightened themselves out and the quality and volumes are good,” he said in mid-February.
Bedsole quoted $10 f.o.b.s in mid-February and said prices did immediately increase in a knee-jerk reaction after the freeze.
The freeze didn’t cause significant damage to south Florida cabbage, said Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op, Belle Glade.
“Our Homestead supply is in great shape,” he said in mid-February. “We have good volume and good quality. Overall, however, the industry supply seems to be down significantly because of other regions getting hit pretty hard.”
Biederman said he expects Homestead to finish cabbage pickings in early April.
He said last year was a normal year that saw typical demand. Though there were a couple of times when price fell, Biederman said the co-op’s Wilson brand cabbage — well known in the industry — always commands a premium price.