Freeze guts early Florida corn

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Buyers should expect light volume of Florida spring sweet corn until much later in the season.

An early March freeze harmed nearly half of early spring volume and is increasing demand and prices.

Paul Allen, president of the Maitland-based Florida Sweet Corn Exchange and vice president and co-owner of R.C. Hatton Farms, Pahokee, Fla., said growers lost up to 45 percent of the  early production.

“We have had damage that will probably show up in the first three weeks of April,” Allen said March 19. “There will be moderate supplies during that time, moderate but not low. Regular spring volumes will come in the week of April 29 or as early as week of April 22.”

Allen, who markets corn and beans through South Bay, Fla.-based Hugh H. Branch Inc., said the remaining corn looks good and buyers should expect Florida’s Sunshine Sweet-branded corn promotional program to begin April 29.

Usually, spring volume begins in late March with promotable volume starting in early to mid-April.

Growers disked damaged corn fields and Allen said it took some time for growers to accurately assess the damage.

On March 18, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported supplies of white corn light with growers experiencing strong demand. The USDA reported wirebound crates of 4-4 1/2 dozen yellow, white and bicolor corn from south Florida selling for $16.35.

That’s up from the $12.35-14.35 the USDA reported a week earlier for yellow and bicolor but the same for white.

Last year in late March, the USDA reported yellow, white and bicolor selling for $10.95-$12.95.

Jon Browder, sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op, Belle Glade, Fla., agreed volume shouldn’t begin until late April.

“There should be a lot of demand in April,” Browder said March 18. “Everyone’s looking for corn — Easter corn too — but there’s nothing out there. It won’t start to clear up until late April. I wouldn’t expect any volume of corn to kick off until late April. We should see light volumes of corn around April 10-12, maybe a little a week earlier if stays hot but the cool nights continue to push it until the second week of April.”

Browder said Homestead volume is mostly finished and a couple of growers planned to continue harvesting once a week until early April.

Georgia, which normally begins light volume in mid-May, looks to be on schedule, he said.

Prices for beans, affected by cold weather and rain, were similar to mid-March.

The USDA reported bushel cartons/crates of hand- and machine-picked round green beans from central and south Florida selling for $35-35.85.

Browder said buyers shouldn’t expect spring volume to begin until late April.

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