Salinas sends strong volumes of broccoli and cauliflower

05/13/2010 03:26:20 PM
Dawn Withers

SALINAS, Calif. — Salinas Valley shippers expect good supplies and strong quality for broccoli and cauliflower from the California coastal growing regions this spring.

Acreage levels for broccoli, cauliflower and celery will remain flat or see slight decreases, grower-shippers said, as they adjust supplies to softening demand to avoid excess production.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects cauliflower acreage will be down 4% in California this year, to about 8,200 acres. Similar declines are forecasted for the state’s broccoli, down 2% to 25,500 acres; and celery, down 1% to 7,100 acres.

Matt Seeley, vice president of marketing for The Nunes Co., said Nunes plans on normal acreage for cauliflower and broccoli, with slight increases for celery.

It’s more difficult to adjust acreage for broccoli and cauliflower, Seeley said, because they are a required rotational crop with lettuce, and are often contractually required in land leases.

“Quality and production have been outstanding,” Seeley said.

In Monterey County, home to the Salinas Valley, broccoli acreage grew 6% in 2008, the most recent year with reported data, to 43,218 acres for the fresh market. With the growth of acreage, the overall value of fresh market broccoli grew to more than $212 million in 2008, from $199 million in 2007.

Cauliflower production for the same period fell by 2% to 14,290 acres for the fresh market. Though acreage was down, the value per unit grew to $678 per ton, placing a total value of fresh market cauliflower at $88 million.

About 31,400 acres of cauliflower were harvested in California last year, an increase from 32,300 acres planted the previous year, and 115,000 acres of broccoli were harvested in the state last year, down from 116,000 in 2008, according to USDA.

So far, the rain hasn’t disrupted planting or harvesting schedules for spring, growers said, though it has disrupted some harvesting schedules now supply issues are anticipated.

The wet weather initially caused some quality issues for early February and March broccoli, said Joe Ange, product manager for Markon Cooperative, Salinas, but no issues persisted into April.

Church Brothers LLC also expects supplies of its commodities such as broccoli to be consistent with previous years and has no plans for reducing acreage, said Steve Church, vice president of operations. Church said cauliflower acreage will likely be up this spring.

“It helps us be a one-stop shop,” Church said.

Mark McBride, sales office manager for Coastline Produce, said early broccoli quality was spotty but continued to improve through the March transition.


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