Desert Vegetable Supplies Offer Opportunities


Great growing conditions in all regions has led to a good supply of most row crops as the vegetable harvest transitioned from Coastal California to the desert regions this year.  While many conventional crops are in an oversupply situation and falling f.o.b. prices, shippers report that on the organic front most vegetables had enough supplies to meet demand with steady pricing.

John McPherson, a salesman for organicgirl LLC, Salinas, CA, said “we have been able to meet demand.  We haven’t exceeded it as we have basically planted to fill the orders.”

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He said that supplies of most organic vegetables crops were adequate for Thanksgiving and he expects the same situation to prevail through December leading up to the Christmas pull.  However, McPherson said all desert vegetable production is susceptible to weather issues.  He noted that if a freeze hits during the early weeks of December that could change the picture. 

Jason Lathos, commodities manager for Church Brothers, told OPN  that the outlook for organic supplies of fresh vegetables in December was very good.  He said great growing conditions in the desert brought fields on early which created plenty of promotional opportunities for organic vegetables leading up to Thanksgiving.  He noted that the same situation should exist in December if the weather remains warm.

Unlike in past years, Lathos said many growers have planted fields of organic vegetables and supplies are keeping up with demand.  He expects the Christmas pull to begin the week of Dec. 11, which should increase demand and tighten supplies.  “Until then we could see heavy supplies and low f.o.b.’s even on the organics, ” Lathos said.

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However, one issue that was coming into play was lack of transportation.  Many truck drivers headed home for the Thanksgiving holiday creating a very short supply of equipment during Thanksgiving week.  There were reports that a straight load to Boston had a freight rate of about $9500 during mid to late November.  That was $3000 more than a month earlier.  It will take at least a week to 10 days following the Thanksgiving weekend for drivers to get back on the road and in their normal transportation lanes. 

But even then, Denny Donovan of Bonipak Produce Co., Santa Maria, CA, said the fresh produce industry could be in for a period of high freight rates.  The Christmas holidays will take more drivers off the road and the new electronic log book laws will soon take effect and also have an impact.  And Donovan said some drivers just don’t like coming to California because of the state’s own more restrictive transportation regulations.

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