BELLE GLADE, Fla. — After light winter volumes and high prices, buyers should expect normal spring green bean volume.

Freezes in December devastated Belle Glade and Immokalee bean production, two of south Florida’s principal bean production regions.

Normal green bean volume to return after winter disruptions

Doug Ohlemeier

Christian “Chris” Tordonato, sales manager of Florida Specialties Inc., Immokalee, Fla., displays some green beans in early February.
Shippers say buyers should expect normal volumes and prices to resume production in early March after winter freezes kept volume low and prices high.

Gary Stafford, salesman and green beans manager with Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee, said growers are awaiting a more typical spring.

He said Belle Glade should return to promotable volume in early March.

“We are getting ready to start back into production on beans that were post-freeze,” he said in late February. “The ones that were either in the ground prior to the freeze or planted after, they are getting ready to mature. During the month of March and for most of April, we will be running wide open on beans.”

Though the timeframe of returning to promotable volume remains on schedule, Stafford said early March should bring the first promotable volume shippers have had since the December freezes.

He characterized quality as excellent and said resumption of spring volume should return prices to promotable levels.

Christian “Chris” Tordonato, sales manager of Florida Specialties Inc., Immokalee, said crops were beginning to regenerate in early February with volume slowly increasing each week. He characterized winter production at only 25% of normal.

Tordonato said he didn’t expect production to return to normal seasonal levels until early March.

He said prices in February were adjusting to reduced volumes.

While bean prices shot as high as $40 for bushel cartons and crates of handpicked and machine-picked beans, prices fell to $30 in early February and by mid-February had dropped to $20.35-$22.85.

“With a little more volume, the market, which was unsettled, has been adjusting,” Tordonato said. “There’s always a period of adjustment as you get back into the fold.”

Tordonato said beans normally sell in the $20s during the winter.

In late February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported bushel cartons/crates of handpicked round green beans from south Florida selling for $21.35-22.85 with machine-picked selling for $20.35-20.85.

Last spring in mid- and late February, shippers quoted prices exceeding $45 for the small volumes that were shipping from Homestead.

In late February 2009, the USDA reported $28.85-30.85 from south Florida.

Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op, said the December freezes made bean supplies inconsistent throughout the winter, particularly from Homestead.

“The quality has been compromised by the weather,” he said in late February. “They had very cold weather and then some heavy rains. Needless to say, it has been a rough growing season from Homestead to Belle Glade.”

Quality, however, should improve daily, he said.

Emilio Mirzakhani, general manager of Homestead Pole Bean Cooperative Inc., said Homestead green beans resumed regular shipping volume in mid-February. He said volume should remain steady through the end of March.

“Beans have been high priced and not very fancy quality,” he said in mid-February. “Now, we are getting to the very good beans. They have good color and very good quality.”