BELLE GLADE, Fla. — A wetter than normal early fall planting season could mean buyers see lower sweet corn volumes around Thanksgiving.

The possible production gaps follow heavy rains that occurred during September plantings for late November production, shippers said.

Small skips possible for late November corn

Doug Ohlemeier

A worker packs sweet corn at Pioneer Growers Co-op, Belle Glade, Fla., in the spring. A wetter-than-normal early fall planting season could mean lower corn volumes around Thanksgiving.

Jason Bedsole, sales manager of eastern vegetables and citrus for Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., the fresh division of Oviedo-based A. Duda & Sons Inc., said any such dips in volume, if they occur, would not be isolated to a select group of growers.

“The area in general will experience some issues due to lost days of planting after the rains,” he said in mid-October. “Generally, demand during that time of the year is down a little, and (movement) depends on how many people had some planting skips.”

Bedsole said he wasn’t sure how long the gap could last, but said he expects the deal otherwise to begin with constant supplies.

Moderate volume

Pioneer Growers Co-op plans to have moderate supplies in Belle Glade for that period, said Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager.

“Historically, Georgia corn can cover most of this demand,” he said in mid-October. “However, this fall’s hot weather could finish the corn deal around the 12th of November.  We are encouraging our customers to look at their Thanksgiving needs now.  We expect to have moderate supplies that are very similar to years past.”

Biederman said the Belle Glade crop looks very good, and that fall growing season weather has generally cooperated with plantings.

Brett Bergmann, co-owner of Hugh H. Branch Inc., Pahokee, said he expects supplies to be similar to last fall.

He said record October heat in south Florida heat could close any possible gaps.

“There were some rains in the early stages of plantings, which could make for some skips, but it’s warm now and it could all get filled in, and we wouldn’t see any skips,” he said in mid-October. “Otherwise, we look forward to having outstanding quality and a very good fall season with the sweet corn deal.”

Lower fall prices

Opening fall season corn prices were lower than last year.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wirebound crates of 4-4 1/2 dozen from south Georgia in late October sold for $8.35-8.95 for yellow, with bicolor selling for $7.35-7.95.

Last fall, in mid-October, the USDA reported wirebound crates of 4-4 1/2 dozen yellow, white and bicolor corn from south Georgia selling for $16.70, up from $12.70 from the week before.
During the fall of 2007, opening season prices from Georgia were $6.70-8.70 for yellow, white and bicolor.

The deal has increased south Florida plantings.

Florida growers for the 2009 fall harvest planted 6,100 acres, 11% higher than the 5,500 acres they harvested last fall and 17% more than the 5,200 acres harvested during the fall of 2007, according to the USDA.

Bergmann said quality from Georgia, which started pickings in late December and early October, looks high.

Many south Florida grower-shippers have operations in south Georgia.

Shippers say the transition between south Georgia pickings and the start of south Florida’s harvesting normally occurs smoothly, keeping supplies consistent between the two growing regions.

Georgia production normally finishes by mid-November but early freezes can often end the deal earlier than expected.

Because the Belle Glade growing region is subject to killer freezes, that area’s production normally runs through January and into early February with smaller volumes harvested during the winter months.

Winter harvesting during February and most of March originates principally from Homestead.

The deal then starts transitioning back to Belle Glade in late March and early April.