BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Aside from its traditional southern vegetables, the Sunshine State is known for packing other vegetables such as lettuce, celery, radishes and variety peppers.
Florida grows heavy volumes of those vegetables during the fall, winter and spring.
Growers said most of those crops survived the January freezes that devastated many other Florida-grown vegetables.
South Florida’s lettuce deal escaped damage from the bitter January cold that burned many other Florida crops.
Grower-shippers say they are looking forward to a strong year.
“The lettuce survived the cold well,” 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. “The quality is good and the arrivals have been great. It’s hard to tell the difference between western and eastern lettuce anymore with the varieties they are growing these days in Florida.”
Duda markets lettuce grown through a partnership with TKM Bengard Farms LLC.
Dan Shiver, co-owner of Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee, said his growers’ lettuce escaped major damage. If freezing weather damages any heads, Shiver said growers can peel the bad spots off of the cap leaf if the damage doesn’t go too deep.
“The quality is very good now and the markets have been very good,” he said in mid-February.
Saying supplies were insufficient to establish a market and that production will continue to be below normal for the next month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture wasn’t quoting Florida lettuce prices in mid-February.
“You can’t give away romaine out west because it’s cheap,” Shiver said. “But the endive, escarole and parsley markets have been very good. Though it’s all predicated on the weather, things look very good now here and buyers should expect good quality all the way through.”
Last year in late February, the USDA reported romaine cartons of 24s from California’s Imperial and Palo Verde valleys sold for $10.45-11.75 with hearts 12, 3-count packages selling for $10.10-12.10.
South Florida’s lettuce deal normally finishes in early May with retail shipments ending in mid-April.
South Florida celery grower-shippers escaped damage from the prolonged overnight freezing temperatures that struck their region in January.
“We don’t have any supply issues,” Bedsole said. “The qualities and outlooks are good. Volumes are good as well.”
Bedsole in mid-February said celery markets have settled a little from the highs they experienced in January.