Georgia vegetables off to a sluggish start - The Packer

Georgia vegetables off to a sluggish start

05/15/2009 01:17:13 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Georgia vegetable growers expect a wetter-, windier- and colder-than-normal spring to delay production.

Growers said they planned to start harvesting most items except for bell peppers one week to 10 days later than usual.

Sweet corn 

Though growers of other vegetables said they heard the state’s sweet corn crop suffered significant rain damage, corn shippers in late April downplayed any damage and said the extent of harm hadn’t been determined.

Brett Bergmann, co-owner of Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee, Fla., which has acreage in Bainbridge, Ga., said the region experienced much rain.

The verdict on any damage, however, was still out in late April, he said.

“There probably will be some stand reduction, but it’s premature to tell what will happen,” Bergmann said.  “There has been a lot of rain, but it’s early in the season, so we don’t know yet. We still have to grow the plants and see how they perform.”

Bergmann said growers expect to produce a strong crop with ample supplies and plenty of opportunities for promotions beginning in June and running through early July.

Shipments normally start around Memorial Day.

As Florida’s deal was beginning to hit full volume in late April, Bergmann quoted $9.40 for wirebound crates of 4-4½ dozen yellow, white and bicolor corn from Belle Glade, Fla.

That was considerably lower than March and early April when Florida corn — then being harvested from Homestead, Fla., after a series of freezes destroyed most of Belle Glade’s winter and early spring production — was as high as $24.85-25.85.

Garrett Griffin, salesman for S. M. Jones & Co. Inc., Belle Glade, in late April said he expected Georgia production to start around Memorial Day.

                                                    Doug Ohlemeier

Workers pack carrots at Gerrald's Vidalia Sweet Onions Inc., Statesboro, Ga. Challenged by severe weather during March and early April, Georgia vegetables growers expect a later-starting deal this season with smaller early volumes.

With the unfavorable weather the region has experienced, Griffin said the deal could be delayed up to 10 days later than normal.

Griffin said he expected Florida to pick through May 27-28, a little later than the deal’s typical Memorial Day finish. He said that should help transition to Georgia’s expected later start.

Griffin characterized Georgia’s quality as excellent and said the state should produce a beautiful crop.

Bell peppers

South Georgia growers planned to start their bell pepper production May 20-24, on time.

Steven Johnson, salesman for South Georgia Produce Inc., Lake Park, characterized the pepper market as highly variable.

Peppers from south Florida in early April had sold for as high as $18.35-20.85 for 1 1/9 bushel cartons green jumbos.

By late April, however, they had fallen to $10.35-12.85 for the same size, with extra large selling for $10.35-10.85; large, $8.35-8.85 and mediums at $6.35-8.85.

Johnson said prices escalated as bloom drops from Florida’s cold and wind became evident four to six weeks after the late January and early February freezes.

“On top of that, the fruit you did have on there didn’t have a lot of big pepper,” Johnson said in late April. “Last week, you couldn’t get big pepper, only choice. There was a shortage of big blocky, extra- larges and jumbos from central and south Florida.”

Harry Sheaffer, salesman for Onancock, Va.-based Marker 29 Produce Inc., the sales agent for Coggins Farm and Produce Inc., Lake Park, said he expects Plant City, Fla., production to end by mid-June when California also becomes a factor.

“Hopefully, the pepper deal will be a little better this year,” he said. “It’s been OK, but not too great over the last few years.”

Cucumbers

A slow-starting year for cucumbers, Georgia shippers in late April said they expect the deal to start May 15, about 10 days later than normal.

Early cucumbers sustained some damage, Sheaffer said.

“The rain and the really late cold spell around Easter have just slowed everything up some,” he said in late April.

Sheaffer said Georgia was following Plant City’s later-than-normal production because of unfavorable weather during plantings. Sheaffer said he expects Plant City production to run through mid-May.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 1/9 bushel cartons of cucumbers from Florida in late April sold for $14.35-16.85, down considerably from $18.35-20.85 in early April.

Joey Johnson, president of J&S Produce Inc., Mount Vernon, Ga., said he expects a favorable early market.

“I’m not sure many people got all of their production planted. If they did, some growers in other areas may have lost their first plantings,” he said in late April. “Anyone who has early plantings should do well based on so much rain the state received.”

Cabbage

Weather problems delayed Georgia’s cabbage deal.

Pickings for Georgia Vegetable Co. Inc., Tifton, began in late April, about 10 days later than normal, said Shay Kennedy, co-owner, vice president and sales manager.

Kennedy said wet fields made it difficult for growers to plant. She expected lighter supplies at the start of the deal.

Because of expected lighter Georgia supplies, Kennedy said she expects the cabbage market to be stronger this year than in the past.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see an $8 market in Georgia,” she said in late April.

“Prices have been low for a few weeks but sure will change when we get more Florida growers finishing up.”

According to the USDA, The cabbage market had increased from $6-6.50 for 50-pound cartons of round green medium from central Florida in early April to $9-10 in late April.

Georgia production runs through the first week of June.

Green beans

Green beans shippers plan to start production in mid-May, about a week later than normal.

The rain and cold weather didn’t cause much damage and only delayed pickings, said Gary Stafford, a Hugh H. Branch salesman and green beans manager.

Branch, which has bean production near Poulan, Ga., west of Tifton, expects a normal transition from central and south Florida harvesting.

Stafford said south Florida’s January and February freezes caused a small Florida gap in production but that strong volumes began hitting in mid-March. Stafford said Florida volume would run through mid-May.

“It’s just a little bit later than normal in Georgia due to the weather,” he said in late April. “There won’t be much of a gap.”

Branch’s growers plan to ship from 400 acres, similar to last season, Stafford said.

Stafford quoted $11-13 for bushel hampers, cartons and crates of round handpicked beans from south Florida, similar to prices garnered in early April.

Kennedy expects a strong bean deal.

“Usually it’s a good market when Georgia opens up, especially this year,” she said in late April. “There should be a gap between Florida and Georgia. Even if there’s not necessarily a gap, if Florida finishes, Georgia can at least have an opportunity to start with just Georgia beans.”

Kennedy said Georgia Vegetable has similar acreage this season.

Squash

Getting off to a late start, Georgia’s squash deal started in late April, a couple of weeks later than normal.

“I have visited some of the fields and some look real nice, but you see areas that have been drowned out by the water,” said South Georgia Produce’s Johnson. “I wouldn’t think there’s going to be a whole lot of squash right off the bat in Georgia.”

Johnson said there wasn’t a lot of squash in Plant City either in late April, and said growers were seeing low markets because of depressed demand.

In late April, 1/2 and 5/9 bushel crates and cartons of zucchini small from Florida sold for $6.35-6.85, medium, $4.35-4.85; yellow straightneck small, $6.35-6.85, medium, $4.35-4.85; yellow crookneck small sold for $8-10, medium, $5-6, according to the USDA.

Marker 29’s Sheaffer said Plant City production would likely keep Georgia prices low.

He said cold weather that damaged some earlier plantings made for a later-than-normal start.

J&S’ growers began pickings April 25, 10 days later than normal, Johnson said.

He said there’s often an overlap between Plant City and Georgia production.

“I think Plant City did well last year, and they should stay in as long as they can this year,” he said in late April. “That could create some market competition. Two years ago, they didn’t plant that much down there. But last year, they planted more and did well with it.”

Johnson said J&S did well with squash last year and that prices were favorable despite increasing input costs.

He said he expects Georgia this season to produce a little more squash.

Georgia normally packs squash through early to mid-June.

Eggplant

Preparing to begin shipments in a strong market that saw late April prices from Florida topping $20, Georgia growers were awaiting what they hoped would be a strong season.

South Georgia Produce planned to start its eggplant in mid-May. Johnson said he wasn’t sure if it was because of weather, but said the eggplant deal had been tight in April.

Prices, however, by late April fell to $8.35-10.85 for 1 1/9 bushel cartons of Florida eggplant, according to the USDA.

South Georgia production normally runs through late June or early July, depending on markets and how well the crops hold up to the heat, growers said.



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