Weather creates lagging start for Mid-Atlantic produce

06/06/2014 10:50:00 AM
Jim Offner

After a winter several growers and shippers described as brutal, the Mid-Atlantic produce season is shaping up well, if a bit late for some, they say.

“Crops are looking good,” said Mark Powell, chief of marketing and agribusiness development with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, Annapolis.

There were some late-winter freezes that damaged some of the earliest varieties of stone fruit, Powell said. There also were numerous heavy rains during the spring, which delayed planting, he said.

“But our farmers are quickly catching up,” he said.

Maryland’s watermelon crop was 24% planted as of May 18, compared to 36% for the five-year average, according to state statistics. Sweet corn was at the five-year average of 51%; cantaloupes, 32%; and cucumbers, 34%.

Peaches are shaping up in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, said Mike Blume, salesman with Greencastle, Pa.-based Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc.

“We may have minimal loss due to extreme cold temperatures, but we’ll have peaches,” he said.

The peach crop in New Jersey likely will start in mid-July, with West Virginia and Pennsylvania beginning in early August, he said.

 

Virginia forecast

The potato outlook in Virginia was playing catch-up, said David Hickman, vice president of Horntown, Va.-based Dublin Farms.

“In the summer potato business, you never know what it’s going to be like until it’s too late,” he said.

Cold and wet conditions hindered planting season, he said.

Hickman said he expects a healthy market when digging of reds gets underway around June 26.

“The potato market looks good right now,” he said. “Due to late planting here and in other areas, it should keep supply in line with demand.”

The deal may start a few days later than normal, but it wasn’t anything to worry about, Hickman said.

The weather settled into a more seasonal pattern in May, Hickman said.

“More recently, we’ve had normal weather, but in March and April, we had extremely wet, cold conditions, and that delayed the crop (and) affected the stands somewhat,” he said.

 

New Jersey crops

Blueberry bushes survived a colder-than-normal winter, said Bob Von Rohr, director of marketing and customer relations with Glassboro, N.J.-based Sunny Valley International Inc.

“As of right now, we’re starting a little later than normal, due to the cold spring we’ve had, and we’re looking at probably scratching at some blueberries around June 18-19, and by the week of June 23 we should be in peak production with blueberries in New Jersey,” he said.


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