By Doug Ohlemeier for The Packer

Damage estimates have increased after a devastating freeze burned many of south Florida's green beans and sweet corn crops.

Darrin Parmenter, vegetable production agent for the Palm Beach County Extension Service, West Palm Beach, estimates the region lost up to 50-60 percent of its sweet corn and 75-80 percent of its green beans. But his office hasn't made any formal calculations and estimates remain educated guesses, Parmenter said.

"Making an estimate now is going to be somewhat difficult since many acres are in a wait-and-see period," he said.

Growers and shippers in late February and early March were surveying damage caused by the subfreezing temperatures that struck the Lake Okeechobee area during the early morning hours of Feb. 17 and Feb. 19.

Brett Bergmann, co-owner of Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee, said Branch's growers lost 500-600 acres of green beans and 600-1,000 acres of sweet corn.

"Beans will be very light in the next three to five weeks," Bergmann said Feb. 24. "There may be a week to 10-day skip before we get back into normal production."

The sweet corn situation, however, remains less certain.

"It is yet to be determined if what we have will be considered a normal April or how that will all unfold," he said.

Gene Duff, executive vice president and general manager of Pioneer Growers Co-op, Belle Glade, said the freeze harmed growers in different ways.

"Everything's in short supply now," he said Feb. 27. "Once we get down the road, we will start seeing more supplies towards the end of March."

Belle Glade green beans, Duff said, should increase in volume by mid-March, while sweet corn should begin production April 10 with larger promotable volumes hitting by April 20.

Product will remain in short supply until the end of April, he said.