Although everything didn’t turn up roses for Georgia vegetable growers in 2005, it could be considered at least in part a rebound season.
After being decimated by prices and weather in 2004, many vegetable producers needed a good 2005. What they got was a mixed bag that may not have been ideal, but it at least helped recover some of the previous year’s losses.
The spring season brought cool, damp conditions that set the crop back by as much as two weeks in some cases. Some areas had as many as 13 inches of rain in March, which is the primary planting time for Georgia vegetables. Temperatures were no help either, as cooler-than-normal weather permeated the area well into May. With the late season came some decline in yields, but for the most part, prices made up the difference. The respectable yields, combined with very good prices for most commodities, resulted in a profitable spring for most growers.
Particularly happy were many of Georgia’s watermelon growers who experienced record prices for the year. Yields were off by as much as 40 percent in some areas, and the crop was late. However, even after July 4, when prices usually plummet, seedless melons were still bringing more than 20 cents per pound. Those prices more than helped to offset the reduced yields and provided Georgia watermelon growers with one of their better overall years in recent memory.
The fall crop has not been outstanding, but it hasn’t been bad by any means. Georgia growers managed to avoid any hurricane activity this year after being pummeled in 2005. Yields have been fair and prices have been decent. So the fall is shaping up to be reasonably profitable as well. As late as mid-November, Georgia growers were still harvesting several crops, including cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers.
Colder weather to the north shut down those production areas in late October, and Georgia was able to take advantage of some late-season price boosts.
While maybe not being as far to the good side as 2004 was to the bad, it has been a decent year for most Georgia vegetable farmers. Certainly, the overall yields for this year will not break any records, but prices provided the catalyst to make the year much more palatable than 2004. That is good news for many Georgia producers who were concerned about their future after such a devastating season the year before.
Despite the dismal season, the final numbers for the 2004 season showed vegetables worth more than $725 million to the Georgia economy, ranking first among crop commodities in the state. With the prices that prevailed in 2005, Georgia should easily eclipse that number this season.
Georgia growers received more good news in regards to methyl bromide. The critical-use exemption process allowed growers continued access to the fumigant for the entire 2005 season. Recently, the international body that governs methyl bromide production under the Montreal Protocol also granted an amended critical use exemption for 2006.
The net result is that production of methyl bromide can continue at 32 percent of the 1991 baseline level through 2006. That should allow Georgia growers access to adequate supplies of methyl bromide throughout the upcoming season. Critical use exemption applications have already been submitted for 2007 and 2008, but those applications have not yet been acted upon.