IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Though torrential rains disrupted early plantings, grower-shippers of bell peppers and cucumbers say they remain optimistic for a strong season.

Because of lesser volume in Georgia and northern producing regions, Florida grower-shippers are eyeing continued strong demand when the other deals finish and Florida begins its fall volume.

Myakka City-based Utopia Packing LLC began harvesting Oct. 16, a little earlier than normal.

“Everything looks real good and we are on schedule,” Jim Monteith, sales manager, said in late October. “We will have good volume and are going in harvesting every day. We should have good production and good quality.”

Volume in Georgia, which typically finishes in late November when Plant City and Immokalee usually begin volume, peaked later than normal this season, which produced a glut of peppers, Monteith said.

Both Florida regions sustained unfavorable weather during plantings, said Tom Nicholson, salesman for Boca Raton-based Ben Litowich & Son Inc.

“There will be periodic skips in central and south Florida,” he said in late October.

Cheriton, Va.-based Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc. planned to start harvesting from Plant City in mid-November.

“They’re coming along well,” Calvert Cullen, president, said in late October. “Depending on the transition from Georgia, there should be good supplies.”

Wimauma-based Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC started harvesting in mid-October.

“The peppers look good,” Jeff Williams, president, said in late October. “Hopefully, we can keep some of this decent market.”

On Nov. 3, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 1 1/9-bushel cartons of jumbo peppers from central and south Florida selling for $12.35-14.35, with $10.35-12.35 for extra-large and $9.35-10.35 for large.

Last year in late October, the USDA reported 1 1/9-bushel cartons of jumbos and extra-large from south Georgia selling for $14.35-14.85 and $10.35-12.85 for large.

In south Florida, Florida Specialties Inc. plans to start production Nov. 15.

“The pepper is looking well,” Chris Tordonato, sales manager, said in late October.

Southern Corporate Packers Inc. plans to begin harvesting in late November, as usual.

“The weather’s been in our favor and we have had perfect growing conditions,” Brian Arrigo, president, said in late October. “Everything’s looking promising and we hope to have continuous supplies.”



Florida cucumbers should be strong this season, Nicholson said.

“They look good,” he said in late October. “I think there will be good supply of cucumbers.”

Florida harvests cucumbers until late December before the deal moves offshore, and Nicholson said many source from Nogales, which usually begins production in late October.

Utopia began harvesting cucumbers in early October and Monteith said he expects promotable volume in November.

“Quality has been good and the market has been generally been cheap up until now, a combination of some cooler temps slowing production and shippers up north are finishing seasonally,” Monteith said in late October.