By Doug Ohlemeier for The Packer



Despite recent spells of warm and cold weather, buyers of sweet corn can expect good supplies and normal sizes out of Florida's spring deal.



Sweet corn survived a cold snap that hit the state's central and south-central growing regions Jan. 30. The sub-freezing temperatures hit in Belle Glade but didn't affect production in Homestead, shippers said. Temperatures in Homestead have hardly fallen below 40 degrees, they report.



"It's coming off real well," said Gene Duff, executive vice president and general manager of Pioneer Growers Co-op, Belle Glade. "Everything's on schedule for a mid- to late- March kickoff of spring corn out of Belle Glade."



Homestead grower-shippers pick and ship sweet corn throughout the colder January and February months. Homestead production ends by mid-April when growers in Belle Glade are expected to begin their spring deal.



Because of hot weather and heavy seasonal rains, Belle Glade usually finishes its production by mid- to late May, when southern Georgia production kicks in.



Because of warmer than normal weather during its growing season, Belle Glade production may finish a little earlier than normal, Duff said.



On Feb. 13, shippers quoted $8.70 for 4-4 1/2 dozen wirebound crates of yellow corn. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, white and bi-color in mid-February from Homestead sold for $10.70.



That's significantly lower than last year in mid-February when 4-4 1/2 dozen wirebound crates out of south Florida sold for $10.70 for yellow, $15.70 for white and $12.70 for bicolor.



Growers blamed the lower prices on heavier Homestead supplies entering the market after the region saw warmer growing conditions. The higher than normal temperatures brought Homestead-grown corn to maturity sooner than normal.



The colder than normal weather that struck south Florida in early February should help shorten or tighten supplies and make for longer maturity, Duff said.



Ted Wanless, eastern vegetable sales manager for Oviedo-based Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc.'s Belle Glade operation, also attributed the lower prices in part to heavy snows discouraging Midwestern and Northeastern shoppers from visiting supermarkets.



"There hasn't been a big decline but it has been steady," he said Feb. 14.