(Dec. 10) Although the broccoli deal in California’s Coachella, Imperial and Palo Verde valleys started a week or two behind schedule, neither yields nor quality has been impaired.

“The yields will still be there; the plant populations is still there,” said Gary Andreasian, commodity manager for Growers Express, Salinas, Calif.

A normal broccoli harvest would have started around Thanksgiving, but as of Dec. 8 most companies had yet to start.

Because of abnormal weather conditions, the broccoli harvest will start two and a half weeks later than scheduled,Andreasian said. He said the first crop was scheduled to come in Nov. 24, but the company didn’t begin harvesting until the second week of December.

The first part of the crop will be light as a result of the weather, said Steve Church, sales manager for Fresh Kist Produce LLC, Salinas.

“The plants got shocked both ways; too hot, too cold,” Cimino said.

With a limited supply, prices are higher than normal, Andreasian said.

The second week of December, cartons of bunched 14s and cartons of bunched 18s cost $10-15, while 20-pound cartons of loose crown cuts had f.o.b.s of $19-21, Cimino said.

The same week last year, cartons of bunched 14s cost $4.75-5.85 and cartons of bunched 18s cost $5.25-6.35. A 20-pound carton of loose crown cut cost $6.35-6.85, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

However, any time a crop runs behind schedule, it will eventually get back on schedule and somewhere along the way there will be an over supply, Andreasian said. He does not expect to see the broccoli crop catch up before Christmas, but said it could happen by New Year’s.

While the desert harvest is just beginning, the California Coast and Mexico have been producing all year. They, too, are dealing with weather issues.

Salinas and Santa Maria have been experiencing rain, so the broccoli is showing condition issues of spot decay, pin rot and water spots, Cimino said. Mexico is battling colder weather and had record rainfall in September and October, which accounts for the lighter plantings now.

Quality, however, has not suffered as a result. Andreasian said he doesn’t see a lot of quality problems and Church said he believes the quality of broccoli will be good.

But with all three areas fighting off natural causes, overall shipments of broccoli are down.

On Dec. 8, with all districts combined, product shipments were 60% of normal, Cimino said.