Mar 30, 2023
Rain tightens organic vegetable supply in California, while cold delays blueberry blooms

Organic vegetable supply is declining as the end of the desert season in California’s Imperial Valley nears, while cold weather is delaying the bloom period for and creating more demand than can be met by the supply of organic blueberries in the state.

With suppliers harvesting as much product as possible while weather permits, a surplus of organic broccoli, cauliflower and celery, with resulting decreased costs, is expected the first week of April, according to Organic Produce Network’s Week 13 report.

Promotions are encouraged as the transition to the Salinas Valley is expected to be difficult because of heavy rains limiting produce availability and driving price increases around Easter into June.

California suppliers are reporting demanding exceeding supply for organic blueberries as cold weather delays the blooming period. Photo: File

Organic leaf and romaine lettuce supply is limited with Florida crops beginning to wind down and transition to Georgia beginning. Supplies from California will also be limited because of heavy rain in the northern growing regions.

Organic grape tomatoes out of Florida will be promotable through Easter, with quality outstanding on steady volume. Organic heirloom tomatoes out of Mexico will be in steady supply and promotable through April. Organic darklooms will be available but quality questionable because of weather-related coloring concerns.

Import organic grape supply is tight with surging prices, while organic green grapes will be available heading into April. Organic red grape supply will be limited to begin the month.

Organic Brussels sprouts from Mexico are in good supply with excellent quality and promotable pricing expected through Easter, while Organic Fair Trade Brussels sprouts are back in season out of the country. Organic green beans from Mexico are beginning to yield consistently stronger volumes, with steady supply and excellent quality expected into next month.

Organic ginger supplies remain tight as Peru, Honduras and China continue to harvest below-normal levels and the season comes to an end. Organic turmeric from Hawaii is available in 30-pound cases as well as 5-pound cases, and there is an adequate supply of organic garlic from Argentina to cover demand until the new crop from Mexico is ready in late May.

California’s heavy rains continue to complicate the organic citrus picture, creating challenges in picking, packaging and shipping. Despite the wet weather, grapefruit, lemons, mandarins, blood oranges, Cara Cara and navel oranges are in good supply, though the beginning of April may see shortages.

California suppliers are reporting demanding exceeding supply for organic blueberries.

Markus Duran, director of bushberry supply for California Giant Berry Farms in Watsonville, told OPN that he is not expecting promotable volumes until mid-May, though he is seeing consistent supply from Oxnard and Mexico.

Carson Evers, berry buyer for Earl’s Organic Produce in San Francisco, said “the organic supply situation is pretty dim,” with supplies from Mexico winding down and California production lagging.

“A combination of rain and cold weather has slowed down the crop,” Evers told OPN. “It has not been warm enough to color the fruit so it can be picked and packed.”

Evers said the organic berry category in general has limited volume as strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are also facing supply challenges.

“We are seeing crazy markets going up and down with bursts of volume, followed by gaps, as growers try to strip the plants in between rainstorms,” he said.

Stephen Paul, category director at Homegrown Organic Farms in Porterville, said the company will not have organic blueberries until mid-nay.

“There are a few coming out of San Diego and Oxnard right now, but the San Joaquin Valley, which is where we grow, is experiencing a two-week delay,” Paul told OPN.

Paul said grower-shippers need to be talking to the retail community in expectation of good, promotable volumes in late May.

“It has been my experience that an early start stretches out the season, but when you start late, they bunch up,” he said. “There is a high probability that, as an industry, we will have very good volume once we get going.”

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