What is in this article?:
- Cold weather influencing fresh vegetable prices, supplies
- Running ahead of previous year
• Vegetable prices now are at or above the highs experienced last year.
• In many cases, yields have been adversely affected leading to gaps in supply and unsettled prices.
Several freezes in Florida along with cool, wet weather in California, sub-freezing temperatures in California and Arizona, and a freeze in Mexico all have contributed to sporadic supplies of fresh-market vegetables this year.
As a result, vegetable prices now are at or above the highs experienced last year.
Mexican vegetables were hit with a stretch of unusually cold weather in early February said to be the coldest experienced in more than 50 years, according to the USDA’s latest Vegetables and Melons Outlook Report.
Crops in Sonora, Sinaloa, and most of the far northern Mexican states likely were impacted the most by the freeze. Although damage estimates were not available in time for this report, the freeze likely damaged more than 1 million acres of crops in Sinaloa, which supplies the majority of Mexico’s winter fresh-vegetable exports to the United States.
Over the past decade, the share of vegetables grown under cover (greenhouses and shadehouses) has been rising in Mexico. Thus, it is likely the level of damage will also depend both on what crop is involved, where a crop was grown, and what technology was used to produce it.
Such crops as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are popular crops grown under cover.
Imports from Mexico supply more than half of the warm season vegetables consumed in the United States during the winter months.
Prior to the early February Mexican freeze, fresh-market vegetable supplies had been sporadic following several destructive December freezes in Florida, periods of cool, wet weather in coastal California, and several periods of sub-freezing temperatures in the desert Southwest in January and early February.
In California and Arizona, heavy December rain, periods of unusually cold weather, and increased disease pressure disrupted growth patterns and harvest windows this winter for most cool-season vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, carrots and celery.
In many cases, yields have been adversely affected leading to gaps in supply and unsettled prices. For example, because freeze damage reduced yields and slowed growth, iceberg lettuce prices traded in mid-February at more than $30 per 40-pound carton, double the late January price and four times the average for this time of the year. Lettuce supplies are expected to remain below average and prices well above average until late March when shipments from central California begin.