(UPDATED COVERAGE, Aug. 6) Grower-shippers expect excellent quality, promotable volumes and strong demand for several Labor Day favorites this year.
The first few weeks of summer had New York sweet corn growers nervous that excessive rain might delay harvests too much to take advantage of Labor Day pull, but by the first week of August, things were looking up, said Tim Richards, salesman for Gill Corn Farms Inc., Hurley, N.Y.
“We were a little concerned we’d be delayed. We’ve been extremely out of synch on the weather,” Richards said Aug. 5. “But now it looks like we’ll come in about on time.”
Shipments would likely start on Aug. 28, still a bit late but well in time to take advantage of Labor Day, which falls on Sept. 7, he said.
With new varieties on tap for this year, Richards said Gill could have the best-quality corn it’s ever had for Labor Day shipments. With supplies likely to be down because of some flooding, demand should be strong, he said.
“I think markets could be very good,” he said. “There’s going to be an erratic supply all the way through. I don’t look for it to be less than $10-11 for the next month.”
On Aug. 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $12-12.35 for wirebound crates of four dozen ears of yellow and bicolor corn from New York, down from $9-10.20 last year at the same time.
Thompson seedless grapes, late-season peaches and late black plum varieties will be the three main items shipping out of California for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, said Marc Serpa, the company's Kingsburg-based West Coast grape and stone fruit category manager.
Though supplies will be starting to taper off in late August, there will still be enough of all three items for ample Labor Day promotions, Serpa said. He expected strong demand in early August to carry through into the holiday.
“Right now the market is exceptionally good, especially on plums, and peaches have gone up quite a bit,” he said.
Grape movement has been good, too, Serpa said, with retailers aggressively promoting at $1.29 and $.99 per pound. Labor Day promotion prices may not get that low, he said, but would still be aggressive.
On Aug. 4, the USDA reported prices of $13.10-14.10 for 19-pound containers of large thompsons from California, down from $14.10-15.10 last year at the same time.
Progreso Produce Ltd., Boerne, Texas, will be sourcing watermelons primarily from the Texas panhandle for Labor Day promotions, said Bubba DeBerry, sales manager.
“Demand has been fairly decent, and the quality is excellent so far,” DeBerry said Aug. 5.
Fruit with compromised quality out of rainy Georgia should be out of the pipeline for Progreso by the time Labor Day rolls around, DeBerry said.
Prices in the range of 16-18 cents per pound would likely hold heading into the holiday, he said.
On Aug. 4, the USDA reported prices of 14-15 cents per pound for 24-inch bins of 35-60 count red-flesh seedless watermelons from Texas and Oklahoma, down from 18 cents last year at the same time.
Because of the lateness of Labor Day this year, Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash., will have volume shipments of new-crop gala apples available, said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager.
Gala shipments should begin Aug. 20, in plenty of time to take advantage of Labor Day, though Domex doesn't have any specific promotions planned, Queen said. In early August the crop was very clean, and the size profile, though 1/2 to 1 sizes smaller than normal, was bigger than last year, he said.
Domex also will have early new-crop bartletts available for Labor Day, with volume shipments expected by Aug. 20.