Georgia produce growers remain optimistic despite tough year so far

09/13/2010 03:43:54 PM
Abbie Stutzer

Georgia’s summer crop experienced a rough time this year, which may be the reason fewer growers are producing this year.

“Georgia did not have much of a window this summer and there was a lot of overlapping from Florida to the Carolinas,” said Shay Kennedy, vice president of Georgia Vegetable Co. Inc., Tifton. “The prices were especially low on beans and squash from mid-May to mid-June. Also, the corn market was terrible in Georgia.”

Kennedy said watermelon overproduction earlier this year killed prices, causing grower-shippers to rethink their plans for fall crops.

“I think a lot of growers are growing less produce this fall in Georgia than in the past, so I think we’ll see higher prices due to (smaller) supplies of cucumbers, beans and peppers.”

Georgia Vegetable grows mostly beans, squash and greens but also some cucumbers, peppers, eggplant and cabbage. Eggplant and squash should be harvested in August and early September, Kennedy said.

Gary Stafford, sales coordinator and green bean manager for Hugh H. Branch, Inc., Pahokee, Fla., said his company specializes in yellow, white and bicolor sweet corn and green beans. The company offers a full line of products such as corn and snipped beans.

The company’s most popular variety is the bicolor variety sweet corn. It continues to grow in demand as growers are increasing production to meet demand, Stafford said.

Hugh H. Branch’s fall crop of corn and green beans generally runs from Oct. 1 until Nov. 15.

Stafford said pricing trends have been depressed over the past six to eight months because of overproduction.

Harry Sheaffer, salesman for Blackwater Produce LLC, Lake Park, Ga., the sales agent for Coggins Farm and Produce Inc., Lake Park, said the company carries a full line of mixed vegetables, including bell peppers, cucumbers, beans, eggplants, squash, hot peppers, carrots, tomatoes and cabbage.

Acreage is down on most crops this season, Sheaffer said.

“It looks like volume will be down from previous years after a rough spring crop,” Sheaffer said. “Pricing continues to seem to fall.”

Steven Johnson, sales manager at South Georgia Produce Inc., Lake Park, Ga., said his company ships fall crops of bell peppers cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, hot peppers and squash. Acreage should hold steady, at least for South Georgia Produce, he said.

“I would say that we should remain about the same as far as acreage for our fall crop,” Johnson said.

“However, I don’t believe the same can be said for all the other grower-shippers in Georgia this fall. I don’t foresee any substantial growth this year as far as industry growth is concerned.”

Georgia growers remain optimistic that this year’s various vegetable crops will be prosperous.

How well produce does this year greatly depends on the weather, said Joey Johnson, president and co-owner of J&S Produce Inc., Mount Vernon, Ga.

Jon Schwalls, director of operations for Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable Inc., Norman Park, Ga., said he hopes there isn’t an early frost like there was last year.

“Barring any adverse weather conditions, our supply should be steady throughout,” Schwalls said.

Calvert Cullen, president of North Hampton Growers, Cheritan, Va., said his company recently began planting zucchini and yellow squash. The company will begin to harvest squash in mid-September. Cullen projected 40,000 boxes of squash this year.

North Hampton Growers planted close to 100 acres for this year’s Georgia deal, Cullen said. Cullen anticipates similar or better demand for Georgia produce compared to last year.

Later in the season, Cullen said his company should begin to harvest cucumbers on Oct. 1, and 50,000 boxes are projected.

North Hampton Growers expects to harvest 100,000 cartons of bell peppers and 60,000 cartons of mixed peppers. The company also offers a hot pepper mix.

The company also expects to ships 60,000 boxes of cabbage beginning in November. The company also ships squash, eggplant (in mid-October), green beans and corn.

Joey Johnson, president and co-owner of J&S Produce Inc., Mount Vernon, Ga., said his company’s Georgia produce deal this year is similar to last year’s deal.

“Our deal is about the same, we actually harvested more green beans this spring then we have in the past. Our crookneck squash is about the same,” he said.

J&S Produce also carries a lot of green beans and Vidalia onions, he said. The company is growing 1,500 acres of crookneck squash, 250 acres of zucchini, 1,000 acres of green beans and 150 acres of cranberry beans and Kentucky beans combined, he said.

“We continue to plant all through the summer into the fall with regular intervals with yellow crookneck squash and zucchini. We are about two weeks late with bean plantings due to (high) temperatures. We usually start bean plantings around Aug. 5. This year we had our first fall planting on Aug. 16,” he said.

Schwalls at Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable said his company’s specialty produce item is pole-grown cucumbers.

The produce that will be harvested first this fall at Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable is eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. The company’s fall crop should start in early September and continue until Thanksgiving.

Schwalls said the company would have roughly the same amount of acreage as last year.

Last year’s crop deal was pretty spotty, he said. There was an early fall frost last year around Sept. 13. The company hopes to have a steady supply compared to last fall, he said.

“We hope to not get wiped out,” Schwalls said.



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