(Oct. 23) While the clouds of the spinach and lettuce recalls still hang over Western vegetable operations, Yuma, Ariz.-area grower-shippers describe near-perfect growing conditions.

Paul Muthart, general manager of Pasquinelli Produce Co., Yuma, said overall planting acreage is down slightly. But Pasquinelli Produce is planting slightly more acreage than in 2005, he said.

Pasquinelli has planted broccoli, cauliflower, celery and both iceberg and leaf lettuce, Muthart said. The company does not grow spinach.

Despite the good weather, Muthart said it was too early to predict the quality of the fall vegetable crops.

PRICES

On Oct. 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported cartons of broccoli 14-18s were $4.35-6. Cartons of cauliflower 12-16s were $4.50-5.50. Film-wrapped cartons of celery 9-16s were $4.35-5.50. Lettuce prices ranged $4.35-12.45 for iceberg, romaine, red and green leaf. Cartons of bunched spinach 24s were $5.50-7. Cartons of bunched radishes 24-48s were $5.45-7.45.

Cartons of cilantro 30-60s were $5.35-8.75 and parsley 60s were $7.85-9.75. Cartons of bunched kale 24s were $5.85-6.50.

Ryan Jones, salesman for Five Crowns Marketing, Brawley, Calif., said the company’s Yuma planting is limited to romaine and iceberg lettuce. He said harvesting is scheduled to begin Nov. 12-15.

Jones said Five Crowns Marketing planted about the same acreage as it did last fall.

FULL COMPLEMENT

Eric Schwartz, division president for Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc., Salinas, Calif., said he expects a normal growing season in the Yuma area. He said the company plants and harvests a full complement of fall vegetables.

“Dole Fresh Vegetables scaled back its Yuma spinach acreage,” Schwartz said.

When harvesting begins in mid-November, Schwartz said he expects the demand to be 25% to 30% of a normal year. But he said he expects the market to improve as consumers gain more confidence.

Schwartz said Dole Fresh Vegetables plans to hasten that consumer confidence.

“We’re launching a major marketing effort to get consumers back to all bagged products,” Schwartz said.

CUT BACK

Boskovich Farms Inc., Oxnard, Calif., cut back about 50% on its Yuma area spinach acreage, said Russ Widerburg, sales manager.

As sales increase, Widerburg said Boskovich Farms would plant more spinach. Nearly all of the company’s Yuma-area acreage, he said, is across the border in Mexico.

The onion and radish harvests were under way in mid-October. By the end of the month, Widerburg said the spinach, cilantro, parsley and kale harvests will begin on Boskovich Farms’ Yuma area acreage. He said the broccoli harvest would begin in mid-November.