(Sept. 10, 3:23 p.m.) Reduced acreage and high quality could bump the per-bin price for pumpkins into triple figures this fall, grower-shippers said.

For the late September/early October peak period, prices could hit $110 a bin, $20 above average, said Joe Pirrone, president of Capac, Mich.-based Mike Pirrone Produce Inc.

Pirrone Produce expects to harvest about 950 acres of pumpkins this season, down from about 1,000 last year, Pirrone said. One of the company’s growers switched his acreage to grain this year, he said.

It’s not just acreage, however, driving stronger markets this year. Pirrone said soaring input costs forced growers’ hands.

“It’s either raise the price or grow field corn,” he said.

Jackson Melons Inc., Henderson, Texas, expects its acreage to be similar to the past several years — about 220, said Kevin Green, salesman.

But that’s not the case for all area growers, Green said.

“What I’m hearing around is there’s some acreage down in West Texas,” he said. “Some guys have quit, some have cut back.”

As a result, Green, like Pirrone, expects strong Halloween demand this season.

“I’m hearing $90-95, which is a little higher than usual,” he said. “We anticipate a pretty good pull.”

Acreage is expected to be off by about 25% for Turek Farms, King Ferry, N.Y., because of reduced acreage and rain damage in July, the wettest in New York’s history, said Jason Turek, partner.

He hopes lower production could boost prices into the $90-$105 range, up from $80-90 last year at peak time.

But with the economy depressed and consumers pinching pennies, Turek said it could be a year where families buy only one pumpkin where formerly they bought two.

And he said the shortages in some growing areas could be made up for elsewhere.

“It’s a big country,” he said. “I’m sure there are other growers who have ample amounts.”

As of Sept. 9, pumpkin supplies were too low for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to list prices.

Pirrone, Green and Turek all reported excellent quality on this season’s crop. In New York, the size profile will be up because of the abundant rains, Turek said.

Sizing also will be up in Michigan, with Pirrone Produce’s shipments on 35-count pumpkins, Pirrone said.

Pumpkins set for potential price jump
Grower-shippers expect pumpkin prices to rise soon, to as high as $110 per bin, which is $20 above average, says Joe Pirrone, president of Capac, Mich.-based Mike Pirrone Produce Inc. Reduced acreage, but large, high-quality pumpkins is the scenario in many parts of the country, Pirrone and others say.

Photo courtesy Jackson Melons Inc.