(Feb. 14) Cabbage prices should rise substantially for this season’s St. Patrick’s Day promotions.

Shippers cite inclement weather more than the luck of the Irish.

Rains caused planting gaps in Texas, leaving some shippers out of holiday promotions entirely. Cool weather in Florida could shorten the state’s supplies by 30% or more, said George Gillespie, vice president of Valley Shore Farms Inc., Moultrie, Ga.

Meanwhile, red potatoes in Florida are skewing more toward the B size, which should mean good availability for the holiday, said Harry Coleman, vice president of sales of the Immokalee, Fla., branch of Tri-Campbell Farms, Grafton, N.D.

Corned beef and cabbage is the mainstay meal for the St. Patrick’s Day holiday at the home of Bruce Peterson, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of perishables, of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark. Peterson, whose wife is Irish, even looks forward to having rutabaga cut into the meal.

In some cities with strong Irish enclaves, such as Chicago, Boston and New York, the holiday, March 17, is particularly popular, he said.

This timing of St. Patrick’s Day on Monday this year could dampen some spirits — “No pun intended,” Peterson said — because it’s easier to generate traffic for a holiday that precedes the weekend, he said.

Still, the holiday remains a great way for retailers to educate younger consumers about corned beef and cabbage, and produce and meat departments can work together to do that, he said.

St. Patrick’s Day also helps generate momentum for items that are green, and not just beers, Peterson said. Granny smith apples are popular for the holiday.

Retailers already were setting cabbage ads for St. Patrick’s Day in early February, said John Bearden, vice president of Plantation Produce Co., Mission, Texas. The company plans to start shipping for the holiday around Feb. 25, he said.

Heavy rains the last two weeks of October and the first two of November caused many Texas shippers to miss the best planting date for the push, he said. Plantation Produce’s farm saw 23 or 24 inches during that time.

The only way shippers could fill the gap was with transplants, but those won’t provide nearly as much volume.

“It definitely has an effect on the market,” Bearden said.

So far, f.o.b.s for ad sales have been mostly $8-9 for 50-pound cartons, he said. The spot market could be as high as $10.

Last season, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported March 3 f.o.b.s for round green 18-24s from the lower Rio Grande Valley at $5. A week later, the price was $5-5.50.

Bearden said despite this season’s shortened supplies, ad pricing has to stay within limits.

“We have to realize that these retailers will not promote if we get too high,” he said.

Jerry Wooters, sales manager of Val Verde Vegetable Co. Inc., McAllen, Texas, said late October rains forced the company out of the holiday this season.

Gillepsie said cool weather slowed growth through January in Florida. Shippers were quoting $10 lid prices as a result.

California and Arizona also produce as the holiday approaches, but those shipments are generally limited to Western markets. Though there was some chance that California and Arizona might try to capitalize by shipping to Eastern markets this season, freight costs could discourage them, Gillespie said.

Coleman expected buyers to begin placing orders for fresh Florida red potatoes around March 3-10.

St. Patrick’s Day also fuels movement for storage reds from the Red River Valley, said Dan Smith, sales manager at Ryan Potato Co., East Grand Forks, Minn. Though the holiday doesn’t have the pull of Thanksgiving or Christmas, it does help bring potato movement out of its traditional February lull, he said. The B’s work well in Irish stew.

The Ryan label, which features an Irishman and shamrocks, works well during the holiday, Smith said.

So do Plantation Produce’s green holiday boxes, which are decorated with leprechauns and four-leaf clovers. The company also offers point-of-purchase materials, Bearden said.