Mid-Atlantic vegetable growers ramping up for summer production - The Packer

Mid-Atlantic vegetable growers ramping up for summer production

06/04/2010 11:06:58 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

After a winter full of higher than normal prices caused by weather-related shortages of Florida-grown vegetables, Delmarva grower-shippers were ready to begin shipments of their products.

While some items such as cabbage had already started in mid-May, green beans were expected to start production in late May while growers of other traditional Southern vegetables such as cucumbers, squash and bell peppers expected to begin harvest by mid-June.

 

Cabbage

Mid-Atlantic cabbage growers opened their late spring and early summer season with lower than normal prices.

Low demand and weather problems in Florida and Georgia growing regions bunched up production, said Jeff Greene, vice president of operations for Hollar & Greene Produce Co. Inc., Boone, N.C.

“The cabbage that was supposed to be later has grown real well at the end, but the cabbage that had slow starts is really late,” he said in mid-May. “You have it all piled together.”

Greene called prices lower than normal and below cost of production.

He quoted $5-6 for 50-pound cartons of medium green cabbage.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in early June reported 50-pound cartons and 1 7/8-bushel cartons of round green medium cabbage from Georgia sold for $4.50-5, while 50-pound cartons of red medium sold for $8-10 and 40-pound cartons savoy medium sold for $12.

That was down a little from mid-May, when the USDA reported 50-pound cartons and 1 7/8-bushel cartons of green medium from south Georgia selling for $5.50-6 with large selling for $5.

Greene said he expects strong volume on the coasts this season.

He said Hollar & Greene planned to start its harvesting in the North Carolina coastal area near Elizabeth City, N.C., on June 1, with production running through early July.

Hollar & Greene planned to begin harvesting in the North Carolina foothills near Mount Airy, N.C., in late June, with volume running through early August.

The North Carolina mountain deal, on the North Carolina-Virginia state line near Hillsville, Va., was expected to start in mid-July with production running through mid-October.

Calvert Cullen, president of Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc., Cheriton, Va., said he expects prices to improve as Florida finishes harvesting.

In early May, he called the market cheap but said he expected it to improve as Georgia wasn’t producing a lot of volume.

Running through mid-June, Georgia normally has a small overlap with North Carolina and Delaware.

Georgia, however, normally doesn’t have too much of an effect on Virginia’s deal, and prices depend on how heavy New Jersey volume comes in on top of Virginia’s, Cullen said.

Richard Papen, vice president of Papen Farms Inc., Dover, Del., said he planned to start harvesting June 1.

Delaware volume normally runs through late July before a month’s break in shipments caused by summer heat.

Production resumes in September and usually runs through Thanksgiving.

“Prices have been cheap lately but we are hoping they will strengthen,” he said in mid-May.

Papen said the Delaware deal last season opened at $10-12.

 

Squash

Parker Farms LLC, Oak Grove, Va., planned to start harvesting squash June 1 and run through mid-October or as late as fall weather allows, said Rod Parker, general manager.

Though some Georgia growers finish in mid-June, Parker said most run through the end of the month and always overlap a little with Mid-Atlantic shippers.

The large overlap usually lasts for a couple of weeks and lowers prices, he said.

“The oversupply of course depresses price but weather also has a lot to do with it,” Parker said.

“The price could be $5 on Monday and $15 on Friday then back to $5 the following Monday, depending on who has product available. It’s a highly unpredictable deal.”

Parker said Virginia quality during the last couple of years has been high and that prices have averaged $8.50.

In early June, the USDA reported these prices from Georgia:

  • half- and 5/9-bushel cartons small zucchini selling for $8.35-8.85, medium for $6.35-6.85;
  • yellow straightneck small for $7.35-8.85 and medium for $5.35-6.85;
  • ¾-bushel cartons yellow crookneck small for $10.35-12.85 and medium for $6.35-8.85.

Cullen said prices during the last couple of years have been decent because New Jersey hasn’t brought an excessive amount of product to the market during the start of its deal.

He said heavy rains often affect the Garden State’s volume.

Georgia production is normally finishing by the time Virginia starts, with only a small overlap.

A monthlong deal, Virginia squash production typically begins in early June and ends by early July.

 

Bell peppers

Mid-Atlantic bell pepper production usually starts in June in North Carolina and in early July in Virginia.

Volume runs through mid-fall.

Parker Farms typically finishes harvesting in mid-October.

The USDA wasn’t reporting Georgia prices in late May.

In early June, the USDA reported these prices from Florida: 1 1/9-bushel cartons green jumbo going for $8.35-10.85, extra-large going for $17.35-7.85, large going for $6.35-6.85 and  medium going for  $5.35-5.85.

Parker said Georgia volume normally runs to mid-July, with Michigan starting about two weeks later than Virginia’s start.

New York and Michigan, he said, are among the large Northern producing regions.

Parker grows on 90 acres in Virginia.

 

Cucumbers

As Florida production was declining and south Georgia harvesting was preparing to start, Mid-Atlantic grower shippers were looking at starting their summer cucumber shipping season with low prices.

The USDA wasn’t reporting Georgia production in late May, saying the first pricing was expected in late May or by early June when harvesting begins.

From south and central Florida, the USDA in late May reported 1 1/9-bushel cartons and crates waxed mediums selling for $12.35-12.85 with carton 24s at $4.

That’s up from mid-May when 1 1/9 bushel cartons of waxed mediums from Florida sold for $10.85 with cartons of 24s for $3-4.

Parker Farms planned to begin harvesting Virginia production in mid June with production running through mid-October.

Because of normal summer high heat, Parker Farms planned to leave the deal in August and resume production in early September.

Parker called last year’s deal strong and said fall growing can always present challenges.

“Cukes like a little cooler growing weather and look better when it’s cool,” Parker said. “You can get good cukes and get a fair price but you don’t get the yields (in the fall).”

Georgia volume normally finishes in mid-June with South Carolina ending in early July and North Carolina stopping shipments in mid-July.

Northampton planned to begin its cucumber harvesting June 10-15.

Northampton’s Cullen said prices during the first weeks of last season were fair but soon dropped after Michigan entered the deal with strong volume.

“Once Michigan comes in, it seems to knock us out because the markets get pretty cheap,” he said.

Northampton harvests cucumbers from Fairfield, N.C. and from Virginia through early July.

Green beans

Growers were expecting to begin green bean production in late May.

The season was opening as south Florida prices began falling.

Bob Colson, president of C&E Farms Inc., Cheriton, Va., said freezes which struck south Florida growing regions in January created shortages and sent bean prices to high levels.

As the Florida deal was three weeks later than normal, Colson said the company had to cut its acreage by 150 acres so it could begin planting in North Carolina on time.

In early May, Colson quoted prices in the mid- to high teens.

The USDA hadn’t started reporting Georgia prices, saying the first report should come in late May when most growers expect to begin harvesting.

Bushel cartons/crates of round green beans from south and central Florida in late May sold for $8.85-10.85.

After planning to finish its central Florida production in late May, C&E expected to move up the Eastern Seaboard starting production in North Carolina and in Virginia on May 25 as well as in the Eastern Shore area of Maryland, in Delaware as well in Pennsylvania near York, Pa., and Bloomsberg, Pa.

C&E, which packs all of its beans in Cheriton, plans to pack through Nov. 1.

Northampton’s Cullen said the grower-shipper is set to begin Virginia harvesting June 10-15 and run through July 10.

He said price during the transition from Georgia to Virginia can vary, depending on the length of the overlap.

During the last couple of years, pricing has been fair as there hasn’t been a large overlap between the two growing regions, Cullen said.

He said prices can often open $10-16-20.

Northampton also packs in Moultrie, Ga.

Tennessee production usually begins in Crossville, Tenn., in early June and runs through late September while Ohio, Indiana and Michigan are also in summer production.

Papen Farms’ Papen said prices can often vary.

“This winter was just crazy,” he said. “There was no corn or beans. If we can get $18, we will do all right.”

Papen plans to start its harvesting in late June.

Sweet corn

Virginia sweet corn production normally begins June 20-25 and runs through the end of August.

Parker Farms’ Parker said production is expected to start on-time.

He said the deal normally has a two week overlap with Georgia harvesting, which runs to around the Fourth of July.

Parker said he doesn’t think growers will encounter cheap prices this season.

He said prices soared to $28 after January freezes destroyed south Florida’s crop but then fell to $7-9 during late April and early May.

“There is a big slug getting ready to move through the pipeline, which will keep prices depressed,” Parker said in early May. “Memorial Day is the first big usage of the year, the first summertime corn sale. When that drops off, Florida will generally be done and Georgia has it all to itself. This year, there is a lot of corn out so I don’t know what prices will be.”

The USDA in late May reported wirebound crates of 4½ dozen yellow, white and bicolor corn from Florida selling for $8.95.

Parker said corn during the Delaware deal has averaged $10-12.

Papen Farms plans to begin harvesting July 1 with volume rolling through mid-September.

If Georgia finishes on time, the Mid-Atlantic deal should see fair prices, Papen said.

Papen called last year’s deal strong and said prices opened at $12 last season for yellow, white and bicolor corn.

He said he sent more corn to Florida retailers during July and August when the state doesn’t produce corn.



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