Cold and sometimes rainy winter weather in the Arizona and California deserts over the past month has slowed the production of many organic vegetable crops, leading to an active market and rising prices, with organic celery being especially short and experiencing a spot market f.o.b. price approaching dizzying heights.
“If I had any that wasn’t on contract, I could get at least $50,” said Boskovich Farms Organic Sales Manager Darrell Beyer on Tuesday, January 5.
Darrell Beyer, Organic Sales Manager, Boskovich Farms
The Oxnard, CA-based salesman said there are several “hot veg items” because of short supplies this first full week of the new year. He also mentioned that kale was a “good mover” this week and that most of the leafy items were in short supply. Beyer said a week of warm weather could right the ship and bring the supply situation back into sync with demand. But he predicted that the hot celery market will last at least several more weeks.
Doug Classen, vice president of sales for the Nunes Company Inc., Salinas, CA, also noted that cool weather has created the typical “ebb and flow” of organic vegetables this winter, stating “supplies are tight across the board.” He agreed that celery demand is active and added that seasonally cool weather has created that same situation for many different items.
Beyer said a week of warm weather could right the ship and bring the supply situation back into sync with demand. But he predicted that the hot celery market will last at least several more weeks.
Classen was hard-pressed to come up with an organic vegetable with promotional pricing possibility but did say that Nunes’s organic cauliflower supplies would be increasing in the short term, which could offer more attractive pricing.
Doug Classen, Vice President of Sales, the Nunes Company
Longtime organic wholesaler David Weinstein of Heath & Lejeune in Los Angeles was unconcerned about the current state of organic vegetable supplies. “In a lot of ways this is typical of what we see every year from the desert,” he said. “This is what we deal with every year—short supplies because of cold weather.”
Weinstein noted that many organic veg crops are in short supply currently, even those grown in hot houses. He expressed dismay that many growers now use indoor environments to control the weather and their production but seem to have no more control than they did with open field production. He said both organic eggplant and bell peppers are largely grown in greenhouses, but both are in short supply this week.
David Weinstein, Director of Procurement, Heath & Lejeune
The National Specialty Crops Organic Summary for January 5 reflected the short supply situation, reporting a wide variation in f.o.b. prices for most of the organic vegetable items. Organic iceberg lettuce was reported to have a tight pricing window of $16-$18, but almost every other leafy green item featured $10 ranges, such as romaine hearts which were listed at $16-$26. Green leaf lettuce was one of the highest priced items at $26-$28, with red leaf lettuce only a tad lower.
“This is what we deal with every year—short supplies because of cold weather.” -David Weinstein
If a week of warm weather does, in fact, significantly increase supplies, organic vegetable volume will be in a much better situation later in January. Those desert production areas have seen temperatures top out in the low 70s for most days over the last few weeks, which means the temperatures start out in the 50s in the morning and do not produce those highs until there are very few daylight hours left.
But the days are getting longer, and by the third week in January, temperatures in the 80s are anticipated in Yuma, Arizona as well as California’s Coachella and Imperial Valleys.