UPDATED: Florida freeze far from over - The Packer

UPDATED: Florida freeze far from over

01/07/2010 08:50:24 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

(UPDATED COVERAGE, 1:30 p.m.) PLANT CITY, Fla. — Though damage estimates aren’t fully known yet, severe cold weather has harmed south Florida vegetable production and is sending vegetables prices skyrocketing — and the worst is yet to come.

Grower-shippers were assessing damages caused by freezing weather that struck the Sunshine State early in the week of Jan. 4. However, they say they are expecting arctic temperatures that are forecast to hit south Florida Jan. 8-10 to be the coldest nights and possibly cause more severe damage to their plants.

Doug Ohlemeier

Florida’s citrus crop survived severe temperatures that struck the state’s growing regions Jan. 4-6, but even lower temperatures are forecast for Jan. 8-10.

The evenings of Jan. 8-9 are expected to be the most damaging, said Jeff Stepanovich, a salesman for Florida Specialties Inc., Immokalee.

Stepanovich said freezing temperatures Jan. 4-5 caused scattered damage.

“We have picked some early as there will be a gap from that,” he said Jan. 7. “The bean deal will definitely have some issues for the next few weeks.”

Stepanovich quoted $20 f.o.b.s for cartons of bell pepper, compared to $5-6 the week before the cold snaps.

Green beans were $35 for cartons and crates on Jan. 7, up from $30-31 the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported earlier in the week, Stepanovich said.

Eggplant had jumped from $8-10 to $18.

“All the prices are reflective of what’s happening,” he said. “We can’t harvest anything, as there’s not enough heat. We will all hold our breath and see what happens.”

In Belle Glade, the hub of Florida’s winter corn deal, Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op, Belle Glade, said damage estimates haven’t arrived yet for Palm Beach County beans and corn.

“We saw frost outside of Belle Glade and lots of frost in town as well,” he said Jan. 7.

Stephen Miller, sales manager of J&J Ag Products Inc., Clewiston, said temperatures fell to 29 degrees for several hours on Jan. 4-5.

“I’m hearing we lost a bunch of beans and corn,” he said. “We don’t know all the details. We need to wait until it warms up before we pass judgment on this. I have seen where the beans looked damaged, but two to three days later, they had some green on them."

As of Jan. 7, it was hard to tell how much damage tomato crops had suffered, said Samantha Winters, director of education and promotion for the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Committee.

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