IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Following Mexico’s freeze-damaged production, Florida cucumber shippers say buyers should expect higher prices to carry on through early spring.

As cucumbers aren’t planted until January, production escaped December freeze damage.

Brian Arrigo, president of Southern Corporate Packers Inc., said the Mexican freezes drastically changed cucumber prices.

Low supplies, high prices to mark cucumber deal

Doug Ohlemeier

Florida cucumber shippers say buyers should expect higher prices to carry on through early spring after Mexico lost production to freezes.
Florida cucumbers, which aren’t planted until January, escaped that state’s December freezes.

“On the import deal, we went from seeing cucumbers where we almost couldn’t give them away,” he said. “But with the Mexican freeze, prices jumped $20-30 a case overnight. All indications are prices are going to remain this way through the duration if not get stronger until the Florida crop comes in with regular supplies.”

Arrigo characterized Florida cucumbers as having excellent quality.

He said he expects the company’s production to start in mid-March.

Brian Rayfield, vice president of sales and marketing for J&J Produce Inc., Loxahatchee, characterized plantings as strong in quality.

“As they’re young and were planted not too long ago, they have a good stand and are growing well,” he said in late February. “Everything has come up.”

Though Florida bows out of cucumber production in January and February, Jeremiah Miller, a J&J salesman, said the low temperatures hurt offshore production in Honduras, and limited yields.

Rayfield said cucumbers won’t production until late March and early April, which is typical for the spring.

He said south Florida hasn’t experienced any unfavorable weather since the December freezes and said he expects strong volume and quality for the region’s cucumber deal.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 1/9-bushel cartons medium from the Central America and the Caribbean Basin in late February sold for $32-32.95 with cartons of 24s going for $12-12.85.

Last year in late February, the USDA reported 1 1/9-bushel cartons medium from Central America and the Caribbean Basin selling for $20 with cartons of 24s going for $8.

Adam Lytch, operations manager of Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., said he expects markets to remain strong as lower than normal Mexican volume continues through the spring, bringing higher prices.

Though L&M planted cucumbers on schedule after the December freezes, Lytch said a favorable growing season has accelerated plant growth so that cucumbers should begin harvesting in early March, about a week ahead of schedule.

“The spring cucumbers are looking really well,” Lytch said in late February. “We have had cooler than normal weather to start with, but it has been nice and warm. The cucumbers are really going well.”

L&M, which packs south Florida product from Immokalee and north Florida production in Moultrie, Ga., plans to switch to north Florida production in mid-April.

Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC, Wimauma, is shipping cucumbers this spring, but has lessened its volume.

Jeff Williams, president, said the crop has been challenging.

“Getting the yields has been difficult,” he said. “We haven’t been getting the pickings. The costs are so high to grow them.”

Formerly growing on several hundred acres, Williams said Hearne cut acreage to 100 acres.

Hearne plans to begin its cucumbers in early April and finish harvesting in mid-May before the heat and sun take away the plant’s color.

Central Florida production normally starts harvesting in late March and early April and runs through mid- to late May.

South Florida production typically begins in early November and finishes in early December before returning in mid- to late March and running through mid- to late May.

J&J has Florida growing operations in Palm Beach County, Clewiston, Immokalee, LaBelle, Arcadia, Okeechobee and Fort Pierce.