(Jan. 11) California celery markets have rebounded strongly following a sluggish 2005-06 season, grower-shippers said.

“Right now, things are going very, very good,” said David Cook, sales manager for Deardorff-Jackson Co., Oxnard, Calif. “Demand has been very good, especially for larger sizes.”

On Jan. 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $18.35-18.45 for two-dozen cartons from the Oxnard growing area, up from $5.23-6.35 last year at the same time.

Jason Lathos, sales manager for Fresh Kist Produce LLC, Salinas, Calif., said markets had been strong since the beginning of the deal, with double-digit f.o.b.s stretching all the way back to August.

“We had good Thanksgiving pull, good Christmas pull — it seems like there was the right amount planted to match up to demand,” he said.

This season’s reduced acreage — and the subsequently stronger markets — should be a forecast of things to come, Lathos said.

“I think it’s a trend that will continue,” he said. “I don’t think there are as many people willing to gamble on open-market commodities. People are getting more conservative.”

While this year has been good for growers, last year’s sluggish markets remain fresh in their minds, Lathos said.

“Even after four or five months of good, it’s hard to forget the bad,” he said.

Last year’s woes, Cook said, probably have much to with this year’s success for Golden State growers. High yields last season in the Oxnard area, which supplies the majority of the nation’s celery from November to late June, created gluts and low prices.

“There’s a little less around this year,” Cook said. “It’s a little bit of a reaction to last year, when things were so bad. There’s no oversupply this season, which is the opposite of last season.”