Early Florida sweet corn produces strong volume

04/26/2012 08:35:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Buoyed by favorable winter and spring growing conditions, this season’s Florida sweet corn deal started earlier than normal and began producing promotable volumes ahead of recent years. Growers began harvesting in earnest in late March, about two weeks early. In late April, grower-shippers were near hitting the million crates a week mark, said Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op. He said Pioneer growers hit promotable volume April 16. “Ever since late March, we have been ramping up and the plantings are getting bigger,” Biederman said April 20. “As we move toward the Memorial Day (May 28) holiday, we hope to be moving wide open. Weather-permitting, we should continue to roll and increase our volume as we go into Memorial Day and have peak volumes by mid-May.” Brett Bergmann, co-owner of Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee, said the industry is focusing on high-quality eating varieties through the Maitland-based Florida Sweet Corn Exchange’s “Sunshine Sweet: Fresh from the Sunshine State” brand. Growers began shipping through that promotion April 16. “Volume started a little early, but demand has been very good,” Bergmann said in late April. “Quality is very good and we should have a good moderate harvest season.” In late April, Bergmann and Biederman quoted $9.20 for wirebound crates of 4-4 1/2 dozen yellow, white and bicolor corn from south Florida, the same price reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in mid-April 2011. Biederman said buyers who booked contracts by late February for the Sunshine Sweet promotions locked in a 50-cent per-crate discount for the promotional period, which ends in May. Ted Wanless, chief operating officer of S. M. Jones & Co. Inc., said buyers were enthusiastically participating in the Sunshine Sweet program. He said prices are “about standard” for this time of the year and volume. S. M. Jones’ growers began harvesting small volumes in late March as Homestead finished winter production. “We had favorable weather this year,” Wanless said in late April. “It’s been more than favorable. Plus, we’ve had an early crop. So, we’re having a favorable spring and early Florida deal. Quality is very high and we’re shipping good fancy corn.” Wanless said south Georgia remains on pace for a similar start as last year, around May 13. He said Florida should meet Memorial Day demand with Georgia bringing volume during the first weeks of June. Wanless also said favorable Northeastern and Midwestern weather is helping drive demand. Summer-like temperatures — he cited almost 90 degrees at the Boston Marathon April 16 — result in sales for grilling, unlike unfavorable weather in those areas last season. Florida’s season typically finishes after Memorial Day while Georgia’s runs through early- to mid-July.

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