LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. — Buoyed by strong winter prices, Florida grower-shippers hope to enter this spring’s cucumber deal with consistent volume and favorable prices.
The deal normally shifts to offshore suppliers in late December and early January and returns to Florida in mid- to late March in south Florida and late March and early April in central Florida.
Warmer-than-normal winter weather helped J&J Produce Inc. begin harvesting small volumes of cucumbers in late February, about a month earlier than normal.
Supplies should increase during March and build to promotable volume in early April, peaking that month, said Brian Rayfield, J&J’s vice president of sales and marketing.
“They look excellent,” Rayfield said in late February.
“Their condition is indicative of the warmer than average weather we’re having in Florida. We are enjoying good quality and good prices on our first cucumbers.”
January freezes damaged Mexican production and Honduras and Dominican Republic growers planted slightly fewer acres, helping keep winter markets strong, he said.
In late February, Rayfield quoted $25-29 for super selects.
He said Florida planted many cucumbers for the spring and expects supply to exceed demand at some point in April.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 1/9-bushel cartons medium from Central America in late February sold for $28 with fair quality at $24-26 and cartons of 24s going for $16-18.
Last year in late February, the USDA reported 1 1/9-bushel cartons of mediums from Central America selling for $10 with fair quality at $7.50-8 and cartons of 24s going for $5.
Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. plans to begin its south Florida harvesting in late March.
“They look fine at this point,” Adam Lytch, L&M’s operations manager, said in late February.
“We have had nice warm weather, which have helped them come along.”
Lytch said the fall deal went well and said favorable weather helped production. He said the markets began low but finished stronger in late December.
Because cucumber plants were young when low temperatures blew into the production region, Lytch said they escaped damage from the mid-February cold.
In late February, Northampton Growers was planting its central Florida pole-grown cucumbers.
Though other growers may begin earlier, Cullen said he plans to start production April 10-15.
“The transition to the offshore deal in the fall went well because (of) it being so warm, it lingered a little bit longer with the locals going into the offshore deal,” Cullen said.
“Instead of finishing in the middle of December, they hung on to the end of December and there wasn’t any break in the transition from one to the other.”
Cullen said the spring transition usually works well when imported product begins winding down in early April.
Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC, Wimauma, began spring plantings in late February for the company’s March/April central Florida production.
“The cucumber deal was good last fall,” president Jeff Williams said.
“The deal has been decent. We had good quality and ideal weather conditions with cool nights. The transition to offshore went well as cucumbers were tight. There was a little while when there were no imports, so prices spiked to $30 for a short time.”
In mid- to late March, Utopia Packing LLC, a division of Utopia Farms, Myakka City, plans to begin its Immokalee cucumbers and expects to start central Florida production by May.
“I think the quality is exceptional,” Brian Turner, owner, said in late February. “We will definitely have marketable volume from mid-March to the first of June.”