BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Because of lighter early national fall volume, Florida growers hope markets remain strong when they begin shipping their sweet corn in mid- to late November.

Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op, said a hotter than normal summer in northern producing regions rushed production and finished the deals sooner than normal, and provided a skip in late September when south Georgia hadn’t really started when corn was difficult to find.

Corn deal looks to open on strong markets

Doug Ohlemeier

Because of lighter early national fall volume, Florida growers are hoping markets remain strong when they begin shipping their sweet corn in mid- to late November.
Workers here pack corn in Belle Glade, Fla., during a previous spring season.

When Georgia opened, prices remained high.

In mid-October, Biederman quoted $14.95 for wirebound crates of 4-4 1/2 dozen yellow corn from south Georgia.

He called that a strong early season price and said prices generally remain consistent with how the markets have dictated when Georgia transitions to Florida in mid-November.

Pioneer initially planned to begin shipments Nov. 15, but rains that hit during planting knocked growers out of that time frame, and the Belle Glade deal should start in late November and early December, Biederman said.

He said growers normally like to hit the pre-Thanksgiving holiday pull.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wirebound crates of 4-4 1/2 dozen from south Georgia in mid-October  sold for $14.95 for yellow and $12.95 for white and bicolor.

Last fall, the USDA reported wirebound crates of 4-4 1/2 dozen from south Georgia in mid-October sold for $10.95 for yellow and white; bicolor sold for $8.95-9.35.

During the fall of 2008, opening season prices from Georgia were $16.70 for yellow, white and bicolor.

Brett Bergmann, co-owner of Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee, said Branch’s growers plan to finish Georgia harvesting Nov. 5-10 and begin Florida production Nov. 15-20.

“It usually makes for a good transition because in a lot of years, Florida can start by the 15th,” he said. “We try not to overlap too much but occasionally the weather doesn’t cooperate.”

Bergmann said Florida plantings have gone well and according to schedule.

“We have had a decent planting season without a lot of weather adversity, like hurricanes,” he said in mid-October. “We expect to have really good quality and steady supplies of all three colors of corn.”

Bergmann said he wasn’t certain how a cold snap that struck Palm Beach County in early October might affect the corn’s development.

He said extreme cold in January and February harmed production and allowed only a few stands to survive toward the end of March.

Shifting production

To help smooth out the gaps caused by Belle Glade’s frequent winter shortages, Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., the fresh division of Oviedo-based A. Duda & Sons Inc., is adding Homestead production.

While Duda in the past had a Homestead presence, Jason Bedsole, sales manager of Eastern vegetables and citrus, said it started a sizeable winter corn operation there.

“We have had a presence there in years past, but we are returning with a good long-term solution for that time period out of Homestead,” he said. “If you follow the last four years, the Glades have been hit with multiple frosts. They haven’t been a consistent supply of corn. That’s why we put this deal together to offer a consistent supply to our customers who have been demanding this.”

Bedsole said Duda expects to begin Homestead production in late December or early January. Volume runs through early April when Belle Glade starts to begin production.

Though the Lake Okeechobee producing area near Belle Glade produces steady volume through early January before production shifts to Homestead, Bergmann said Belle Glade’s winter supplies decline considerably and growers take a big risk trying to grow corn to survive Belle Glade’s freezes.

Though it can start in light volumes in late March, Belle Glade’s spring deal normally returns in mid-April and runs through Memorial Day.

With 6,000 acres, Florida production represents 58% of U.S. fall corn production, according to the USDA.