Severe weather causes later Georgia start

05/15/2009 01:40:26 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Weathering thunderstorms, hail, cold and wind, Georgia vegetable grower-shippers expect promotable volumes to begin later than normal and to produce smaller-than-usual volumes at the beginning of the deal.

Though the Georgia peach deal should start on time, shippers also expect later-than-normal starts for the state’s blueberries, cantaloupe and watermelon.

The start of the bulk of the state’s vegetables deal, which normally begins in early to mid-May, could see up to 35% less volume, growers said.

Abnormal weather

The torrential rains — bringing in 20 inches or more in some regions, along with high winds and a record number of nights where temperatures fell below freezing in March and early April, should reduce yields and volume.

                                           Doug Ohlemeier

A worker harvests green onions at Cowart Farms, Lyons, Ga. Because of early spring torrential rains and high winds, Georgia vegetable growers expect their deals to start later than normal this year and produce smaller volumes early in the season.

“There will be some issues and some reductions and decreases in the size of the Georgia deal because of the weather,” said Steven Johnson, salesman for South Georgia Produce Inc., Lake Park. “We are all taking some shots on the chin.”

Harry Sheaffer, salesman for Onancock, Va.-based Marker 29 Produce Inc., the sales agent for Lake Park-based Coggins Farm and Produce Inc., described the growing season before the heavy rains as ideal.

“Everything was actually picture-perfect until we had all of that rain,” he said. “It should help make things a little bit more interesting from a marketing standpoint.”

Sheaffer said he expects the deal to produce decreased yields and fewer supplies.

Little damage

Daniel Whittles, director of marketing and product development for Rosemont Farms Corp., Boca Raton, Fla., in late April rode through the partners’ south Georgia fields.

Rosemont markets bell peppers, cucumbers, squash and cantaloupe for Tifton, Ga.-based Lewis Taylor Farms Inc.

He said Lewis Taylor Farms’ production should be a week or two late in harvesting.

“It’s just been a bizarre weather year,” he said.

“We are extremely optimistic going into the season, especially as we have been able for the most part deal with the 16-20 inches of rain in a very compressed period of time. But everything looks healthy and everything has survived the deluge.” 

As growers get more into the season, Whittles said he expects plantings to get bunched up and the season will get a little more compressed in terms of time.

Despite the weather troubles, grower-shippers expect strong quality.

“The Georgia-grown products this year should be exceptional,” said Shay Kennedy, co-owner and vice president and sales manager of Tifton-based Georgia Vegetable Co. Inc. “It will have a later start, but buyers should expect to continue loading in Georgia for a longer period of time than in the past.”

Kennedy said the state’s vegetables should maintain their quality even though grower-shippers plan to continue harvesting into July, a little later than normal.



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