IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Though prices had started strengthening, lower-than-normal fall prices marked the opening of Florida’s squash deal.

Buyers were able to buy boxes of green and yellow fancies for $4-5 in late September.

Central Florida grower-shippers began shipments in late October.

Mike Shier, sales manager for the vegetable department of Six L’s Packing Co. Inc., said the
squash market during most of the summer, most of September and early October was abnormally low.

“It has been so depressed that a lot of guys have run through their early fields without improved prices,” he said in mid-October. “Recent fall weather in the Carolinas and Georgia will eliminate some acreage, and demand for squash should increase coming into November.”

That increase, which should boost prices, follows less volume and sellers from northern producing areas, which include south Georgia, the Carolinas, and smaller areas in Mississippi and Alabama.

Six L’s expects to begin its south Florida pickings in early November, Shier said.

Increasing prices

Fall squash prices had started increasing.

In late October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 1/2 and 5/9 bushel cartons of small zucchini from south Georgia sold for $12.35-14.85 with medium at $10.35-12.85; small yellow straightneck, $10.35-10.85, medium, $8.35-8.85; 3/4 bushel cartons of yellow crooknecks, small, $14.35-14.85, medium, $8.35-9.85.

In early October, those same sizes sold for $6.35-8.85 and $3.35-4.85 for zucchini; $6.35-6.85 and $4.35-4.85 for yellow straightneck; and $8.35-10.85 and $5.35-6.85 for yellow crooknecks.

This season’s prices are similar to a little higher than last fall when the USDA in mid-October reported 1/2 and 5/9 bushel cartons of zucchini small selling for $6-6.35; medium, $4-4.35; yellow straightneck small, $6-6.35; medium, $4-4.35; 3/4 bushel cartons yellow crookneck, small, $8-10.35, medium, $6-7.35.

Tommy Torbert Jr., president of Five Bros. Produce Inc., Homestead, said prices in mid-October had increased to $8 for small zucchini and $10 for yellow crooknecks.

“Production is down a little, so there’s higher demand,” he said. “Production last week kind of fell off toward the end of the week.”

Low prices, less pollination, plus the ending of northern deals with business being sent to Georgia helped increase prices, Torbert said.

Georgia volume

Torbert characterized the Georgia deal as having high quality.

He said quality has been good though prices have been low.  

Torbert said he hopes prices will rebound toward the end of Georgia’s production, which usually comes in mid-November or after the first freeze.

Five Bros. began its south Georgia squash pickings Sept. 25.

He said Homestead pickings should begin on-time Nov. 1.

In Florida, Five Bros. planted 3,500 acres of yellow and zucchini squash this season, similar to last fall, Torbert said

Greg Cardamone, general manager of eastern vegetables for L&M Cos., Raleigh, N.C., agreed that as northern areas begin finishing production, prices should rise.

“Our quality (from Georgia) has been excellent,” he said in mid-October.

Jim Monteith, sales manager for Pacific Collier Fresh Co., which also grows and ships squash from Cecil, Ga., said spring squash prices were also low.

He said lower prices in the past aren’t necessarily due to south Florida production.

Florida overlaps

“It’s not so much that there’s a lot of product here in Immokalee,” Monteith said. “Immokalee always seems to get out of the way. But there always seems to be an overlap in squash production between Homestead and central Florida.”

Homestead, Monteith said, often has late plantings that overlap with central Florida’s spring start.

Pacific Collier planned to start its south Florida squash pickings in late October.  

Production usually runs through the end of March.

Though central Florida saw some typical early rains with excellent subsequent drying conditions, Dean Wiers, sales manager of Willard, Ohio-based Wiers Farm Inc., which has Florida production through Wiers-Turner Farms LLC, Palmetto, said the growing season has been favorable and has been shaping up to be a typical fall deal.

Wiers said his central Florida acreage remains similar to last year’s.

Wiers-Turner began pickings in late October.

Scott Seddon, brand manager with Pero Vegetable Co. LLC, Delray Beach, said last year brought an average but good deal.

He said Pero is looking forward to an even better year this season.

Pero planned to begin its squash harvesting in early November.