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OPN Connect Newsletter 264 · April 14, 2022

Organic Celery Plagued with Low Supply & Demand


Duda Farm Fresh Foods, one of the nation’s leading celery producers, is currently mired in a position where low organic celery supplies should be returning much better FOB prices—but the demand just isn’t there.

“We remain very limited in supply,” said Richard Uchida, sales manager in the Salinas, CA, office of the company. “It’s been very cold in Oxnard, which has led to limited supplies and created a very tough early spring. The price [for organic celery] has been in the upper teens, and it hasn’t changed for weeks.”

Organics Unlimited July 2022

Richard Uchida, Sales Manager, Duda Farm Fresh Foods

Duda will be sourcing from Oxnard through June before production moves to the Salinas Valley for the summer, and Uchida does not have high expectations that the situation will change over the next couple of months for organic celery.

“We remain very limited in supply. It’s been very cold in Oxnard, which has led to limited supplies and created a very tough early spring. The price [for organic celery] has been in the upper teens, and it hasn’t changed for weeks.” – Richard Uchida

However, he did note that growers are reporting seeder issues in a significant percentage of their conventional celery fields. That issue is defined as the plant bolting and going to seed. As the stalk grows, Uchida said it becomes unsellable in the fresh market, which results in lower yields per field, less supplies, and potentially a strengthening in the market. While the issue has not yet surfaced in Duda’s organic celery fields, he said that may well become an industry issue and further limit supplies of both conventional and organic production. That would be a market changer.

Chelan Fresh July 2022

Uchida said one other major drag on both the organic and conventional celery market has been the high cost of transportation. “You can only get 32 cases of celery on a pallet,” he said, noting that at the current cost for a cross-country load that equates to a $20 freight bill on every carton of celery once it hits the East Coast. That clearly adds significant cost at retail, and Uchida suspects that extra cost has decreased consumer demand. “Hopefully, consumers will get used to paying the higher price as they are doing with almost everything else in the supermarket,” he quipped.

Russ Widerburg, sales manager for Boskovich Farms in Oxnard, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that a strong market for both conventional and organic celery would materialize as April moves forward, because of the seeder issues. He said in general both organic and conventional celery fields have been keeping up with demand, which has kept the price down. But he did note that the reports of seeder problems are getting louder and louder. The seeder issue can spread pretty quickly, and that would greatly impact the supply side of the equation. The Boskovich executive said if the problem persists, the market price would reflect that in the next couple of weeks.

Duncan Family Farms July 2022

Russ Widerburg, Sales Manager, Boskovich Farms

Widerburg did say that organic celery is doing much better from a market standpoint than conventional celery, which was only selling for $11-$12 FOB on April 12 while he was quoting organic celery in “the high teens to low $20s” on that day. Boskovich is currently sourcing its organic celery from Santa Maria.

In Hunts Point Terminal Market in New York City, Joe Eisinger, organic buyer and retail sales representative for Nathel & Nathel Inc., said organic celery was selling briskly at $38-$40 per carton. He typically sources from California and said he has had a steady supply of organic celery with no difficulty filling his orders.

Cal-Organic July 2022

Though the sales price of $40 FOB New York might seem relatively high, Eisinger called it fairly normal. “We’ve seen organic celery at $80 [in past years], so I’d call this a fair price.”

Widerburg did say that organic celery is doing much better from a market standpoint than conventional celery, which was only selling for $11-$12 FOB on April 12 while he was quoting organic celery in “the high teens to low $20s” on that day.

Adding in the $20 per carton freight rate that Uchida of Duda estimated, it is easy to see how the $40 per carton invoice materializes.

Misionero July 2022

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