Following difficult, weather-related growing conditions that negatively impacted many commodities last spring, this year's outlook has been optimistically deemed "as good as it can get."
Most grower-shippers indicate that they anticipate outstanding quality and ample volume this spring.
As the 2017 season moves into full swing, growers say the rains that impacted last year's crops of lettuce, radishes and celery are a thing of the past. This year things have - for the most part - returned to "normal."
The good weather this year means supplies of both sweet corn and green beans are also expected to be very good. Grower-shippers throughout the state, speaking in late February, anticipate normal to plentiful supplies of both.
"We're looking at a bumper crop of sweet corn," said Bryan Biederman, partner in Scotlynn Sweet Pac Growers LLC, Belle Glade, Fla. "Everything has been amazing."
Florida green beans start in January in the southern parts of the state around Okeechobee, then move to central Florida regions such as Plant City, in mid-March, said Calvert Cullen, president, Northampton Growers, Cheriton, Va. "Barring any new weather issues, green beans will be real good, with plenty of product and very good quality. Prices should be low for everyone."
Taters and 'maters
Despite some high winds in January, this year's spring tomato crop out of Florida is set for a return to normal volumes after a tough year for the crop in 2016.
"This year is night and day compared to 2016," said Tony DiMare, vice president of DiMare Co., Homestead, Fla. Wet winter weather made for low volumes and issues with quality, DiMare said.
"Barring some unforeseen weather, which could always pop up, there are no problems with the balance of the spring crop," said Chuck Weisinger, president and CEO of Weis-Buy Farms Inc., Fort Myers, Fla.
Weisinger said tomato color and flavor are good and should continue that way if the weather remains favorable.
Florida potato growers plant and harvest a variety of potatoes, spanning all colors, as well as product for both table consumption and chips.
Mack Farms, Lake Willis, Fla., expects major volume to start in mid-March and run through mid-May.
Citrus and peaches
Florida citrus production for 2017 will be coming to a close soon. Spring citrus consists mostly of grapefruit, tangerines and valencia oranges.
Winter weather was uneventful for citrus. Al Finch, president of Florida Classic Growers, the marketing arm of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association in Dundee, Fla., expects the grapefruit season to end early, in mid-March. "Tangerines should be good until mid-April," he said, "and we should see a very good supply of valencias through May."
With virtually no other peaches on the market for an eight- to 10-week period each spring, Florida's peach business is attracting new customers every year, marketers say.
Florida growers are proud of their tree-ripened fruit's eating quality. "We offer a true ready-to-eat peach," said Finch, whose company markets peaches and blueberries in addition to citrus. "You take them home and enjoy them - no additional ripening is needed."
Good growing conditions for both blueberries and strawberries should provide buyers with an outstanding supply to meet April promotions. Retailers should be prepared to capitalize on a good crop, with prices more normal than last year, marketers say.
"Florida blueberries are the 'first' in the nation," said Dudley Calfee of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, Brooksville, Fla. "So when consumers buy Florida blueberries they are getting their first taste of a truly 'fresh' product, versus one that's spent four to five weeks on a boat coming from Chile."
"The outlook this year is very positive, especially when compared to last year," said Mario Flores, director of blueberry product management, Naturipe Farms LLC, Salinas, Calif., which grows berries in Florida. "We've bounced back well - it's as good as two years ago."
Growing weather has been ideal for strawberries and production has been good as a result, grower-shippers say.
Gary Wishnatzki, president of Wish Farms, Plant City, Fla., said that strawberry plants need the right amount of chill hours to keep the plants in production mode.
Florida watermelon production starts in the Immokalee region in mid-April and moves to central and northern Florida in mid- to late May.
Rain, winds and low temperatures that disrupted plantings and flooded fields last year have given way to warm weather - almost perfect growing conditions this year, said Brian Arrigo, president of Southern Corporate Packers, Immokalee, Fla.