Lighter Georgia pepper, cucumber volume forecast
Coming off consecutive disappointing seasons, Georgia bell pepper grower-shippers this season are hoping for better markets.
Spring 2010 was rough, shippers say, as freezes delayed product from Florida and backed-up deals from south Florida through the Carolinas. Fall started better, they say, but only for those who had early pepper.
Steven Johnson, salesman for South Georgia Produce Inc., Lake Park, characterized pepper prices in mid-April as low. He said he thinks prices could rise as Florida volume gets closer to ending.
“There has been some warm weather down there,” Johnson said. “I just don’t think there will be that everlasting supply of pepper we have seen in years past that continues from Florida to south Georgia and doesn’t miss a beat. There will definitely be a skip. Coupled with the decreased acreage, I think these guys have a chance to have some healthy markets this season.”
Harry Sheaffer, salesman for Blackwater Produce LLC, Lake Park, the sales agent for Coggins Farm and Produce Inc., said Coggins Farm expects to begin harvesting May 25, on time.
He notes the market is paying better prices for the smaller peppers.
“Jumbos are very plentiful and are fairly cheap,” he said in mid-April. “But off-grade pepper and the large, medium and small sizes — they’re hard to come by. They’re getting more money than the jumbos, which doesn’t happen that much. There is definitely more demand for the smaller sizes than the jumbos.”
In late April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 1 1/9-bushel cartons from central and south Florida at $12.85 for jumbos and extra-large and $10.85-$12.85 for large.
That compares to last year in late April, when Florida pepper sold for $40.35-40.85 for jumbos, $30.35-36.85 for extra large and $20.35-20.85 for large.
Adam Lytch, operations manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., said prices had been all over the place on the jumbos throughout March but bottomed out in mid-April.
Lytch said a March cold snap delayed some plantings but spring temperatures since have been extremely warm. That should bring the crops in on time, he said.
L&M plans to load north Florida bell peppers grown near Branford, Fla., out of its Moultrie, Ga., facility in mid-May, helping extend its Georgia window. L&M plans to begin its Georgia bells in late May.
“Instead of having a six-week window, we will have an eight-nine week window,” Lytch said.
Georgia’s bell pepper deal usually begins in late May and typically finishes in early July.