Cooler-than-usual weather in mid-December was keeping California celery volumes in check, but markets were still just “so-so,” said Russ Widerburg, sales manager of Boskovich Farms Inc., Oxnard, Calif.
Cooler-than-usual weather in mid-December was keeping California celery volumes in check, but markets were still just “so-so,” said Russ Widerburg, sales manager of Boskovich Farms Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

California grower-shippers reported tepid demand for high-quality celery heading into the winter holidays.

Cooler-than-usual weather in mid-December was keeping California celery volumes in check, but markets were still just “so-so,” said Russ Widerburg, sales manager of Boskovich Farms Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

“There seems to be enough to accommodate the lighter demand,” he said. “It’s hovering around $10.”

On Dec. 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $8.75-11.45 for cartons of 2 and 2 1/2 dozen from California, down from $14.45-16.65 last year at the same time.

Volumes were expected to be lighter than normal the weeks of Dec. 19 and Dec. 26, said David Cook, sales manager of Deardorff Family Farms, Oxnard.

Cook also reported sluggish markets.

“It seems like since the season began demand has been moderate at best,” he said. “There’s a more than adequate supply.”

The cool weather was forecast to continue in the Oxnard area through the end of the year, Widerburg said.

Markets were flat during the summer and early fall, then they strengthened for Thanksgiving, Widerburg said. But the Christmas and New Year’s pull has been lighter than shippers anticipated.

The winter holiday spike shippers enjoyed the past two years hadn’t materialized yet as of Dec. 19, Widerburg said.

Transportation costs could be one explanation for the sluggish demand, Widerburg said.

“The freight rates are high, and that hurts celery,” which is a relatively heavy produce items, Widerburg said. “The ads are there. It just seems demand is a little lighter than normal. For at least the next week or two it will be kind of ho-hummish.”

Cook agreed.

“If anything is holding things back, it’s freight rates,” he said. “Celery is expensive to haul.”

Celery quality in mid-December was good, Widerburg said. Cook reported “excellent” quality and size.