For the latest report on Florida growers' concerns over more frigid weather expected from Dec. 13-15, see More subfreezing temperatures heading to Florida.

TAMPA, Fla. — Prices are increasing for green beans and corn after two nights of subfreezing temperatures struck south Florida growing regions.

Florida freezes send prices higher as more cold weather predicted

Courtesy University of Florida

Freezing temperatures destroyed most of south Florida's winter tomatoes in January. Vegetable growers are assessing damage from Dec. 7-8 freezes and are bracing for another round of cold weather expected to hit Dec. 13.

Growers are assessing damage from consecutive nights of cold temperatures Dec. 7-8 to vegetables and tomatoes and are preparing for even colder weather expected to hit their production the week of Dec. 13.

Prices for beans, corn, cucumbers and squash are increasing, with Florida beans soaring to $$30.85 for bushel cartons and crates on Dec. 8, up from $14-16 the week before as damage estimates became more known.

Paul Allen, vice president and partner with Pahokee-based R.C. Hatton Farms, who markets through Hugh H. Branch Inc., said the overall south Florida bean deal remains in bad shape.

“There’s a lot of damage around,” Allen said Dec. 8. “There are going to be shortages for the next months for sure on beans and corn.”

Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op, Belle Glade, quoted $12.95 for yellow corn, up from $10.95 a crate in early December.

Biederman on Dec. 9 said Pioneer was waiting to hear from all of its growers to give an accurate estimate of the damage, but said growers rushed harvesting ahead of the coming temperatures to assure supply.

“The freeze will definitely have some effect,” he said. “As time moves on and there’s less corn in the Glades, we will see prices increase. We’re selling that corn now for higher money.”

On squash, prices for Florida yellow straightneck rose from $10.35-12.35 in early December to $12.85-14.85 for cartons and crates while eggplant and bell pepper remain unchanged as of Dec. 8.

Tomato prices remained low at $7.95-8.95 for cartons of 5x6s.

Chuck Weisinger, president and chief executive officer of buying broker Weis-Buy Farms Inc., Fort Myers, estimated the cold hurt 15%-20% of south Florida’s crop.

“This is not a salvage crop,” he said Dec. 9. “We had a little too much volume to start.”

Weisinger said growers have reported damage from Myakka City to Homestead, and said he only expects prices to rise if colder temperatures destroy more of the crop during the expected Dec. 13 freeze.

Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs for Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland, said the concern is more about that coming arctic front.

“Everyone is worked up and pretty worried about it as you have plants vulnerable from this freeze,” she said. “With what happened in January, that was bad enough, but to have a one-two punch this early in the season, it won’t be good news for us. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the temperatures won’t be as low as they are predicting.”

Forecasters are predicted temperatures falling again into the mid-20s for longer periods for the early morning hours of Dec. 13 throughout southeast and southwest Florida, harming the state’s vegetables and tomatoes.