Though growers plan a tardy start for their cabbage harvesting, buyers should look for more normal beginnings for Georgia-grown sweet corn and green beans.

The state is the next major East Coast supplier of the three vegetables following the ending of Florida’s winter and spring deals.

Buyers should expect a late start for this year’s Georgia cabbage deal.

Adam Lytch, operations manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., which grows and ships cabbage from north Florida and south Georgia, said Georgia harvesting isn’t expected to start until early May, about three weeks later than the deal’s normal April 10-15 start.

Because of the cold winter, L&M plans to go three weeks longer in north Florida, Lytch said.

The north Florida deal normally ends in late April and early May.

“The plants that were planted, they just sat there and never grew,” Lytch said in late April. “The cabbage supply this spring coming out of Georgia will be fairly tight because the crops are late and the yields won’t be as good. Any time you have a crop pushed back that far, it also affects yields.”

Lytch said he doesn’t expect issues with quality.

Delayed by cold weather, Florida plantings intended for St. Patrick’s Day that hit the market after the holiday bunched up and caused an oversupply and lowered prices.

Lytch in late April quoted $4 for 50-pound cartons of round green medium.

In late April, the USDA reported $5 for 50-pound cartons of round green medium, $4 for small and $10 for red from south, central and north Florida, up from $7-8 for green medium, $6-7 for small and $10 for red in early April.

Last year in late April, central Florida green medium sold for $6-6.50.

North Carolina, the next largest producing region, normally begins harvesting May 10.

This year, however, Lytch said he expects that deal to be a little later than normal, though not pushed as far back as Georgia’s.

Sweet corn
Riding on a higher-than-normal market because of shortages in south Florida product, Georgia growers expect to begin corn harvesting in mid-May, as normal.

Later cabbage shipments, normal spring Georgia beans and corn movement

Buyers can expect an overlap between south and central Florida green bean production and the start of Georgia’s production.

Corn has been selling for as high as $28-30 per crate from south Florida through much of the winter and early spring.

“Prices have been unbelievable,” said Steven Johnson, salesman for South Georgia Produce Inc., Lake Park. “With the little bit of corn (that) buyers have been getting, if you wanted corn, you had to go out west to Mexico this winter. That’s been pretty much true for most everything we have dealt with this winter.”

South Georgia planned to begin its corn harvesting May 16, give or take a couple of days.

The state’s corn harvesting typically starts by late May and runs through mid-July.

Johnson called last spring’s Georgia corn deal strong in terms of pricing.

Because of torrential rains that caused flooding, he said Georgia harvested half of its volume.

“The only problem with corn last spring was the volume wasn’t there,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t one of those things where you can really run up a lot of money, but it was a healthy deal for us.”

Johnson said growers look forward to this year’s deal as the state produces a lot of corn and spring remains a big draw for cookouts and grilling and the Memorial Day demand.

He said supermarket chains do big pushes on corn from before the Memorial Day holiday through July 4.

This is the first season that Georgia Vegetable Co. Inc., Tifton, plans to pack corn.

“We have carried it in the past, but you have various growers that want to grow certain items,” said Shay Kennedy, co-owner, vice president and sales manager. “After they try it, they decide they didn’t make the profit they wanted. We have new growers wanting to get into it.”

Kennedy said the growers were fortunate in that they planted their corn and other vegetables in March, avoiding the unfavorable cold weather that hit south Georgia in January and February.

Green beans
Buyers can expect an overlap between south and central Florida green bean production and the start of Georgia’s production.

“South Florida planted beans this year later than normal,” said Joey Johnson, president of J&S Produce Inc., Mount Vernon, Ga. “We should have some beans overlapping with ours’, when we usually don’t. That overlap may run to mid-May. Some (Georgia) growers plant late crops to take a chance. Florida doesn’t like it because it goes into their time. But they are doing the same this year with all their late crops. It’s not like they’re trying to hurt each other but are just trying to survive.”

Though some other Georgia producing areas begin a little earlier, Johnson said J&S’ growers plan to begin harvesting their 600 acres around May 10-15, the normal starting time.

Johnson said Georgia experienced a strong season last fall. He said prices remained strong on average and were better than anticipated.

Georgia Vegetable’s Kennedy noted that prices fell in mid-April from as high as $20 from south Florida to $12.85.

“As more people are starting harvesting, and theirs is better availability, we will see prices lowering as more items start shipments,” she said in mid-April. “We expect to have a good season in Georgia as prices in Florida have been high.”

Georgia Vegetable plans to begin shipments May 15, on-time.

Volume runs through the end of June before transitioning to eastern Tennessee.

Jon Schwalls, director of operations for Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable Inc., Moultrie, Ga., said he planned to begin harvesting beans May 15, about a week later than normal.

“The beans look well,” he said in late April.

Schwalls said colder than normal temperatures and heavy rains caused lower than normal volumes last fall.