UPDATED: Extensive initial damage reported for south Florida vegetables - The Packer

UPDATED: Extensive initial damage reported for south Florida vegetables

01/11/2010 09:13:49 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

(UPDATED COVERAGE, Noon)  BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Growers say south Florida vegetable crops have extensive damage after freezing temperatures struck during the early morning hours of Jan. 11.

Doug Ohlemeier

Though Florida strawberries have survived a week of freezing temperatures, the state's vegetables and tomatoes in Immokalee and Belle Glade have in early estimates sustained extensive damage from the record cold.

Citrus and strawberries apparently have escaped major damage, but strawberry shipments remain at a standstill.

Growers say temperatures in Immokalee, where winter vegetables including tomatoes are grown, remained below freezing for more than nine hours.

One vegetable grower-shipper said f.o.b. prices and quality will be affected greatly.

Officials with Immokalee-based Six L’s Packing Co. Inc. were in the fields inspecting damage the morning of Jan. 11.

“I believe we will have some extensive damage,” said Mike Shier, sales manager for Six L’s’ vegetable department. “We had some extreme low temperatures.”

Growers say temperatures fell to 27-28 degrees in southwest Florida.

Homestead, where eggplant, green beans, sweet corn and tomatoes are grown, received some ice and 30-degree temperatures. Shier and other grower-shippers say they are hearing that region sustained damage as well.

Garrett Griffin, a salesman for S.M. Jones & Co. Inc., said he heard Homestead, which grows the majority of Florida’s January and February corn, sustained extensive damage.

“I’m not really sure what we have left (there),” he said.

Ted Campbell, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Dover, said the strawberry deal has survived the temperatures that fall to the mid-20s.

“The only places where we have apparent issues now are where growers had equipment failures or gaps in sprinkler coverage,” he said Jan. 11. “All things considered, the plants have iced-over well overnight. Once we get back to normal temperatures, the leaves will begin to show. Though everything is stressed, the plants should come out of it.”

Though Campbell said some modest harvesting was done Jan. 8, the weather is keeping the plants from producing many berries. 

Campbell said one grower north of Plant City reported the temperature falling to as low as 18 degrees.

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