Georgia growers plan to begin harvesting traditional southern vegetables on time or about a week later than normal for the 2010 spring season.
Shippers are expressing concern, however, about how prices could react if central and south Florida remains in volume when Georgia begins its production of bell peppers, cucumbers, squash and eggplant.
Though prices for some items shot to abnormally high levels following an unfavorable winter filled with shortages in Florida, sellers say prices have begun to fall and they expect more normal pricing for the spring.
Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc. sprays off eggplant last season. L&M grows and packs eggplant from south Florida and Georgia. Its south Georgia volume should start in early June, says operations manager Adam Lytch.
With late winter and early spring prices hitting stratospheric levels, south Georgia packers of bell peppers expect prices to fall by the start of harvest.
In south Florida, where January freezes and months of cloudy and rainy growing weather kept plants from growing, prices shot up to as high as $50 for 1 1/9-bushel cartons green jumbos.
By late April, however, those prices, while still higher than normal, eased a little, falling to $40.35-40.85 for jumbos, $30.35-36.85 for extra large, $20.35-20.85 for large, $14.35-16.85 for medium, and irregular size fair quality selling for $14.35-16.85, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Last year in late April, peppers from south Florida sold for $10.35-12.85 for jumbos, $10.35-10.85 for extra large, large, $8.35-8.85, and mediums at $6.35-8.85.
“At one time, people were paying $45 or more for chopper pepper and on large and medium,” said Steven Johnson, salesman for South Georgia Produce Inc., Lake Park. “Anything that resembled a green bell pepper was worth a lot of money. As far as big jumbos, there’s just no big pepper down there (south Florida) now.”
Johnson in late April said South Georgia Produce expected to begin harvesting its south Georgia peppers on-time May 20-24. Though volume normally runs through the end of June, Johnson said South Georgia Produce in the past has gone through the second week of July.
An expected overlap between central Florida harvesting and south Georgia’s start shouldn’t harm Georgia production, said Harry Sheaffer, salesman for Blackwater Produce LLC, Lake Park, Ga., the sales agent for Coggins Farm and Produce Inc., Lake Park.