( File photo )

Celery’s high prices, high demand and low supply show no sign of changing soon.

Whether the popularity of the vegetable this spring was driven by books touting celery juice’s health benefits, short supply due to crop shifting or the states’ atypical rain, celery continues to experience its time in the sun.

Prices started the winter in the low $30s per carton, but by March reached between $70 and $75 per carton and continued into mid-April. As of May 22, U.S. Department of Agriculture f.o.b. shipping prices from Oxnard, Calif., ranged from about $66-$72.45 a carton, depending on size, while organic celery ranged from $72.50-$75.85 a carton, with supplies noted as being “very light” with “demand exceeds supply.”

That is the situation at Boskovich Farms in Oxnard, said.

“The whole celery market is short; demand is up, and plantings are down,” Darrell Beyer, organic sales manager at Boskovich Farms, Oxnard, Calif., said, “One week you may have quite a bit of celery — but then you don’t have it for weeks.”
That means there’s enough for Beyer’s regular customers but not for others on a celery hunt.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “They will take whatever they can get — conventional or organic.”

He said prices are ranging from as high as $80 a carton for high-quality celery but $40 for celery that’s affected by weather, which has to be cut down in size due to improper growing.

“There’s a huge spread, and huge quality variance,” Beyer said.

He thinks the momentum will last until July, but feels it’s driven more by fewer celery plantings this year, a reaction from celery growers burned by last year’s “horrible” pricing. Also in the mix was high rainfall amounts in Oxnard.

Doug Classen, sales manager with The Nunes Co. Inc., Salinas, Calif., said the market for celery has been tight and will continue to be so until the deal transitions to Salinas. Recent rains may also cause some planting gaps in the celery supply.

In terms of pricing, he said the market’s been between $60 and $70 the last few months.

“I don’t see any ease for next few weeks,” Classen said.