West Coast Tomato Shippers LLC has had “an unbelievable market for the last 3.5 months,” president Bob Spencer said in mid-February. The company started its tomato harvest in October and will continue through June 5. ( Courtesy West Coast Tomato Shippers )

Thanks to mostly favorable growing weather, Florida grower-shippers anticipate a strong spring season for their fruits and vegetables.

Tomatoes, strawberries and cabbage were the Florida commodities with the highest volume during the week of Feb. 16, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Florida accounted for 37% of U.S. tomatoes that week, 49% of strawberries and 39% of cabbage.

Items trending up as of Feb. 16 compared to the same time last year were avocados, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, bell peppers, other peppers, radishes, squash, strawberries and round tomatoes.

Items trending down were beans, bok choy, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, sweet corn, endive, escarole, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and plum tomatoes.

West Coast Tomato Shippers LLC, Palmetto, Fla., has had “an unbelievable market for the last 3.5 months,” president Bob Spencer said in mid-February.

Florida growers did not plant quite as many tomatoes as they did last year, and Mexico’s production was down as well, he said, resulting in favorable markets.

The company started its tomato harvest in October and will continue through June 5.

The firm grows round and roma tomatoes and will have its normal acreage this year, Spencer said.

He was optimistic about the spring season.

“The crops look good,” he said, with decent sizing.

Weather has been favorable, for the most part, Spencer added, although a few cold snaps may have caused some bloom dro

“Overall, the crops appear to be in relatively good shape,” he said.

Yields might drop a bit in early March because of the colder weather, but they should return to normal by the middle of the month, he said.

Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC, Plant City, Fla., will have strawberries until the end of March, said salesman JR Pierce.

Pierce described berry quality as “very good.”

The company entered its peak strawberry season in mid-February, and that will continue through mid-March, he said.

Organic strawberries also were peaking with good flavor, quality and plenty of volume, he said.

Blueberries were set to start at the beginning of March, should have a big month in April and go through the end of May.

Pierce expected good volume, size and quality on blueberries this season.

Utopia Packing LLC, a division of Utopia Farms, Myakka City, Fla., was just planting cucumbers and bell peppers in mid-February, said Jim Monteith, sales manager.

The company has two different crops — one on Florida’s east coast and another in the Myakka City area in the western part of Florida.

The crop in the east starts in early March, but the larger of the two crops is in the west and starts in mid-April.

“That’s when we really get started as far as spring volume goes,” Monteith said.

Cucumbers should start there on April 8 with bell peppers following 10 days to two weeks later.

Utopia Packing will have “very promotable volume” by the end of April, he said.

On the citrus side, Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, Fla., was finished with its grapefruit and tangerines for the season but expected to have fresh valencia oranges through May and then ship out of storage through June and maybe into July, said GT Parris, commodity manager.

Quality on valencias was “top-notch,” he said.

Spring is a transition period for Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla., said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing.

The company’s Florida-grown Slimcado tropical avocados were winding down, but the summer crop will kick off in June, she said.

There were ample supplies of good-quality Caribbean red papayas, a year-round item, and Brooks Tropicals will have Florida passion fruit until late March.

Star fruit will be available through March then return in July, and Florida dragon fruit will return in June.

Florida lychees and mamey sapote should kick off their summer seasons in May, Ostlund said. 

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