West Coast celery shipping point prices continue to hold strong at historically high levels, and the market may not back down for several weeks.
“There is definitely limited production and we are still seeing very strong demand,” said Melissa Ramsey, sales representative with Steinbeck Country Produce, Salinas, Calif.
Prices for celery on Feb. 27 were $42 to $45 per carton, compared with $5 to $8 per carton the same time last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
California and Arizona shipping point prices for conventional celery from early January through late February have ranged from a low of $20 per carton to more than $50 per carton, compared with a trading range of $5 to $15 per carton for the same period a year ago.
Ramsey said Steinbeck was transitioning in late February from the Yuma, Ariz., region to production in the Oxnard, Calif., area.
From Feb. 17-23, the USDA reported total celery shipments were off 12% compared with the same week a year ago.
“Supplies will kind of stay steady — there is definitely less in the ground, so overall I don’t really see the market shifting too much,” Ramsey said. Variable weather conditions in Yuma and Oxnard have contributed to lighter supplies, she said.
In the company’s Feb. 27 market report, Monterey, Calif.-based Pro*Act said celery demand exceeded supply in late February. Rain and cool temperature in Oxnard slowed the growth of the commodity and Pro*Act reported production in Yuma is minimal. Light availability is expected until at least mid-March, according to the Pro*Act market report.
Celery was just one West Coast vegetable in high demand in late February.
The USDA reported very light cauliflower supply and higher demand on Feb 27 with a market of near $40 per carton, compared with $13 per carton a year ago. Iceberg lettuce demand is also exceeding supply, with prices from $25 to $35 per carton, up from $7-8 per carton a year ago.