Gaps, strong demand push prices for broccoli

04/05/2012 02:59:00 PM
Susie Cable

Many growers in the Santa Maria, Calif., growing region specialize in broccoli because the climate is ideal for year-round production.

“Santa Maria is a leading growing area for broccoli,” said Paul Allen, owner and president of Main Street Produce, Santa Maria.

Broccoli is Main Street’s major vegetable crop. Demand for broccoli out of Santa Maria was strong by late March, Allen said. In February, demand was not as strong because of an oversupply resulting from overlapping production with the Yuma, Ariz., region, growers said.

However, a slight lull in production created a small gap, precipitating stronger demand and higher prices.

On April 4 the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that cartons of size 18 broccoli heads from Santa Maria were priced at $6.50-7.50. A month earlier, cartons were priced at $5.75 - 6.50.

A year ago on April 4, cartons of size 18 broccoli heads from Santa Maria were priced at $9.50-10.75, the USDA reported.

Main Street’s addition of new acreage this year is expected to result in 20% greater broccoli volume, Allen said. The company’s broccoli production remains fairly stable throughout the year, with planned decreases during January and February. Main Street ramps up broccoli production in the summer and fall, when demand is greater, Allen said.

In late March, Salinas, Calif.-based Pacific International Marketing Inc.’s growers’ broccoli production was approaching peak volumes, said Henry Dill, sales manager. After a small surge in early March, then a small supply gap, volumes in late March were nearing budgeted levels, where they were expected to stay for at least another month.

Demand for broccoli was good in late March, Dill said, in part because of some Easter pull from retailers. Quality was good, and prices were higher than they were during the period of overlap of production in Yuma and Santa Maria, Dill said. Even so, prices were not high enough for good returns.

“It’s not at what you would want to see for a profitable level,” Dill said. “Product is moving, and you’re getting some money back to the ranch, but it’s not where you need it to be.”



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