IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Though subfreezing temperatures that struck in January destroyed much of south Florida’s winter eggplant production, growers were looking forward to spring production.

Florida eggplant pickings to return by mid-March

Doug Ohlemeier

Emilio Mirzakhani, general manager of Homestead Pole Bean Cooperative Inc., displays some eggplant in early February.
South Florida growers expect full eggplant production to resume by mid-March.

They said they expect full production to resume by mid-March and note how Mexican supplies were limiting prices from skyrocketing.

“Whatever was not covered was killed,” said Brian Arrigo, president of Southern Corporate Packers Inc., speaking of Immokalee-area plantings. “Almost all the plants that were covered survived but were stunted.”

Though south Florida volume was down, Arrigo said Mexican supplies in January and February were keeping the market depressed.

Arrigo quoted $10-12 average prices for January and February.

Calling supplies insufficient to set a market, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in late February wasn’t quoting prices from south Florida.

Low prices
Six L’s Packing Co. Inc., Immokalee, grows eggplant during the spring in Homestead and in Felda, north of Immokalee.

Though Mexico was sending a lot of eggplant to the U.S. in February, Gerry Odell, chief operating officer of farming and packing for the Lipman Family Cos.’ Six L’s and Custom Pak, called the eggplant market decent in early February.

Odell said eggplant isn’t highly resistant to cold winter temperatures.

“Eggplant will die quicker than anything you can think of in cold weather,” Odell said. “If you have eggs, you have to plant them in warm spots. If they don’t do well, they will get a lot of scarring. Eggplant is not a crop that does well in the Immokalee area.”

Emilio Mirzakhani, general manager of Homestead Pole Bean Cooperative Inc., said eggplant in the Homestead area sustained minor damage.

He said the freeze didn’t significantly interrupt volume.

“Eggplant demand has been very soft,” he said in early February. “Mexico is bringing in a lot of eggplant, which is enough to not have a decent market on them.”

Mirzakhani said he expects south Florida to produce good quality eggplant and steady volumes all the way through mid-April when Homestead volume normally finishes.

South Florida growers expect to ship through mid-May.