BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Escaping serious crop damage, Southeastern sweet corn growers expect a smooth transition from Florida to Georgia production areas that were soaked with torrential spring rains.

Though southwest Georgia damage wasn’t as high as feared, shippers said buyers should expect smaller volumes during Georgia’s early volume deal.

By mid-May, growers had ended most green bean harvesting in south Florida and had started south Georgia production. Higher than normal production was keeping prices low, growers said.

Wilkinson-Cooper Produce Inc. plans to start its Georgia corn pickings May 19.

Randy Wilkinson, president, said the region should produce light volume until mid-June.

Georgia corn, beans should see reduced volumes
                                                         Doug Ohlemeier

A worker packs sweet corn for R.C. Hatton Farms, Pahokee, Fla., at its South Bay, Fla., packing facility May 6. Paul Allen, R.C. Hatton’s vice president and partner, who markets his corn through Hugh H. Branch Inc., says this year’s Florida spring corn has high quality and higher than normal yields.

“There will be a gap (in Georgia) from when the rain hit,” he said May 11. “From June 5-11, you won’t have much corn, and the region won’t have a lot of corn for the Memorial Day holiday, as it will be a smaller deal. If it stays hot, the gap will close up. Everyone up there should expect a small gap.”

Wilkinson said 17-18 inches of early spring rains delayed Georgia plantings for a week.

Pioneer Growers Co-op and other Belle Glade-area grower-shippers in mid-May were in full production in south Florida.

Pioneer plans to begin its Georgia harvesting May 22-25 on-time and continue south Florida pickings through early June, about a week longer than normal.

Because January and February freezes destroyed the region’s winter production, Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager, said Belle Glade area harvesting began in a light way April 17, several weeks later than the normal late March start. Volume, he said, kicked up quickly by late April.

Biederman called south Florida quality excellent and said he expected a strong Georgia deal.

“Everything up there looks wonderful as well,” he said May 11. “Initially, there were a lot of weather concerns because of all the rain, but everything has been real resilient and has come out of it.”

Shippers called prices a little higher than last season.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on May 11 wirebound crates of 4-4 1/2 dozen yellow, white and bicolor corn from Belle Glade sold for $8.95-9.40, similar to late April prices, but higher than last year’s $8.20-8.95.

Georgia corn, beans should see reduced volumes

Because of higher than expected yields, Paul Allen, vice president and partner with Pahokee-based R.C. Hatton Farms, which markets its corn and beans through Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee, said south Florida growers in mid-May weren’t harvesting all of their corn but were shipping the traditional May weekly number of crates.

“We have a great-looking crop,” he said. “Yields are phenomenal in the industry. The chain stores all stepped up and supported our industry this year. They all got on board and pre-committed to the crop and volume.”

Allen said south Florida growers were packing more than one million crates a week, and expected to pack six million crates for the season, the normal seasonal amount. As the bulk of the deal should end during the last week of May, Allen said Hatton planned to begin its Georgia crop then.

The supply of beans was exceeding demand in mid-May, Biederman said.  He said prices have been low since Pioneer began packing its Georgia beans May 5.
Pickings are expected to run through June 10.

Biederman quoted $9-10 for bushel hampers, cartons and crates of round machine-picked beans May 11.  Pioneer packs its Georgia beans in Belle Glade.

Prices, however, fell even lower the next day, when the USDA quoted $6.85-8.85 for beans from south and central Florida.

Last year, those same beans from Georgia sold for $10-10.85.

The USDA reported Georgia shipments were half of what they were this time last season and said earlier weather conditions slowed planting cycles and pushed harvest dates back.

As with corn, Biederman said Georgia has a strong bean crop this season.

“Bean quality is beautiful,” he said. “The rains we had prior to harvest seem not to have bothered them.”

The southwest Georgia growing region fared better than central Georgia, which took the brunt of the storms, Biederman said.

Wilkinson said his south Georgia beans quality looks strong. While Pioneer plans to finish its Georgia beans production by June 10, Wilkinson-Cooper plans to harvest through the week of June 15.