(July 30) PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — And then there was one.

In the mid-1980s, there were more than a dozen broccoli growers in northern Maine who shipped fresh product from mid-July into November, but H. Smith Packing Corp., Presque Isle, is the sole commercial producer this year.

Andy Yaeger, sales manager at H. Smith Packing, said the labor-intensive broccoli industry has waned partly because of harvesting costs — unlike the potatoes in the area, broccoli isn’t harvested by machine — and crop losses from poor weather.

The only other grower in recent years, Maine Packers Inc., Caribou, didn’t market broccoli last year, but a spokeswoman in summer 2002 said the company had plans to plant this season.

In February 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited the company for failure to pay a Minnesota seller. The company’s telephones have been disconnected.

H. Smith Packing, however, is boosting production, and Yaeger said supplies will be increasing in mid-August, with as many as 90,000 cartons of bunches of 14s and 18s and loose crowns shipped each week during September through mid-Oct., with production declining around Oct. 20.

“We’re off to a good start, and the weather has been cooperative,” Yaeger said. “It was a cool spring through the first of May, but once we hit June, things have been more normal.”

H. Smith Packing has about 2,600 acres of fresh market broccoli this season, an increase of about 100 acres.

Harvest started on July 12, and Yaeger said early season prices have been $7.50-8.50 for cartons of bunched 14s, and $8.50-10 for iced crowns.

Maine prices generally follow California’s f.o.b.s, Yaeger said, and prices in Salinas/Watsonville on July 29 were lower, at $5.10-5.60 for bunched 14s, $5.60-6.10 for bunched 18s and $6.10-8.10 for 20-pound cartons of crown cuts.

Yaeger said Labor Day generally marks a return to higher consumption with fall promotions, because it’s easier to promote during cooler months.

California’s shipments from Santa Maria and Lompoc are steady, but about half the volume of the Salinas production to the north, according to the USDA.