• Higher prices for vegetable crops such as head lettuce, carrots, celery, cucumbers, broccoli and cauliflower easily outweighed lower prices for bulb onions, snap beans, tomatoes and sweet corn.
• Although averaging 13 percent below a year earlier, tomato prices remained strong during January through May as cold weather again reduced supplies and delayed harvests.
Lettuce prices may be impacted the most by any supply gaps as steady fresh-cut processor demand (moving under contract) potentially leads to more significant reductions in open-market availability. This situation may have been in play during the post-freeze price run-up for iceberg lettuce this past February and early March.
Producer prices for melons averaged 52 percent above the relatively weak levels of a year earlier during the January through May period.
Supplies from both domestic and import sources have improved after a late start caused by yet another cool, wet spring.
Some bunching of harvests from both domestic and import sources resulted in strong supplies of watermelon during mid-May to early June, which caused prices to plummet.
May shipments of watermelons, cantaloupes and honeydews increased seasonally, with volume exceeding year-earlier levels.
The summer season got off to a slow start — some areas as much as one to two weeks behind schedule — in much of the Midwest and parts of the East because of cool, wet spring weather.
There were regional pockets such as New Jersey and parts of Michigan that reportedly came through the spring on schedule and with normal crop growth and yields, thanks in part to increasing use of protective plastic hoop tunnels and row covers.
Assuming average weather from this point forward and a small increase in acreage, the outlook for the 2011 summer season (July-September) appears to favor average supplies and generally lower prices compared with the weather-driven highs of a year ago.
Summer-season shipping-point and retail prices are expected to average below the highs of a year ago despite pressure from higher energy, transportation and packaging material costs.