With regional and home-grown production across the country greatly reducing demand for organic vegetables from year-round producers, sales boards are not lighting up with many bright spots.
“It’s August,” quipped Darrell Beyer, director of organic sales for Oxnard, CA-based Boskovich Farms, referring to the depressed sales that are typical of the season. “Celery is decent, but everything else on my sales list is below $14 [FOB for a carton], except cilantro. Both conventional and organic cilantro are in short supply.”
Darrell Beyer, Director of Organic Sales, Boskovich Farms
Beyer added, “When it’s hot in the West [temperature wise], cilantro gets hot [price wise].”
On August 3, Beyer said a carton of 30 organic cilantro bunches was returning $32, which is a very strong market. He added that conventional cilantro was also returning $32 FOB for a carton of 60s. The Boskovich organic specialist expected cilantro to remain in short supply for at least the next couple of weeks.
“When it’s hot in the West [temperature wise], cilantro gets hot [price wise].” -Darrell Beyer
Beyer pessimistically expects to limp through the summer with less than stellar markets on most organic SKUs until weather of one type or another starts limiting local production from the many small deals around the country. During this time of year, Boskovich significantly reduces its organic acreage, cutting way back on staple items, which can be grown in different US regions during the summer. Beyer said he will have a full complement of products again around the first week of October, once Mexico begins its fall production.
Jackie Grindle, Senior Buyer, Earl's Organic Produce
Jackie Grindle, senior buyer at Earl’s Organic Produce in San Francisco, confirmed that organic cilantro is in short supply. “Cilantro went up last week due to weather, especially the heat,” she said on August 3. “Right now, there is limited availability. We are seeing it in the high $20s per case of two-and-a-half dozen.”
Beyer said he will have a full complement of products again around the first week of October, once Mexico begins its fall production.
Grindle predicted that the high price of organic cilantro will last at least another week or two until new sources of supply mature.
She also agreed that the “dog days of August” have taken over with slow movement of most organic vegetables. “Local tomatoes are coming in and creating some excitement, and we are seeing some good action on specialty eggplant, but most other items are pretty slow.”
Deardoff Family Farms organic cilantro
Luke Patruno, who handles organic sales for Deardorff Family Farms in Oxnard, CA, agreed that both organic and conventional cilantro are solid items right now among a sea of not-so-great performers. “We only grow a little of it to service our existing customers, but I wish I had more,” he said.
On August 4, Patruno said the market for organic cilantro was $22-$28 for 30s, adding that he doesn't "see any [price] relief in sight for the month of August."
Luke Patruno, Sales, Deardoff Family Farms
Patruno does not believe there are many cilantro fields out there waiting to be harvested anytime soon. “We are telling our grower to lovingly harvest the crop and make sure he doesn’t leave any boxes in the field.”
The Deardorff representative said celery, which is their summer mainstay, has been in the doldrums all summer and confirmed there are not a lot of bright spots on his sales board. “Broccoli is in the mid to high teens [in terms of an FOB price], so that’s okay.”
Steve Wright, Chief Customer Officer, Shenandoah Growers
He added that the summer heat brings a lot of bug pressure in the July/August period, which is another challenging factor for organic vegetable crops.
Steve Wright, chief customer officer for Shenandoah Growers, is a buyer of fresh organic cilantro as the company outsources the production of that item. “It is a little tight right now as are some other [field-grown] herbs such as tarragon and dill because it is so hot in some growing areas.”
He said packaged cilantro only represents a small percentage—about 10 percent—of the cilantro market, so acquiring supply has not yet been an issue. “We are just a small portion of the market, and we have not yet experienced any problems in sourcing it,” Wright said.