HOMESTEAD, Fla. — The squash market is seeing high prices following low Florida volume and damage from Mexican freezes.

In mid-February, Florida movement was low.

Brian Arrigo, president of Southern Corporate Packers Inc., Immokalee, said supplies were slowly increasing.

Shortages keep squash prices high

Doug Ohlemeier

Charles Porter, salesman for Five Bros. Produce Inc., Homestead, Fla., displays some zucchini squash in early February.
Low Florida and Mexico volume have kept squash prices higher than normal.

“By mid-March, we will begin to see steady supplies across the board,” he said in late February. “By mid- to late March, supplies should return to steady volumes to where product should be promotable and back to regular levels. South Florida and central Florida should come back in volume then.”

Arrigo quoted squash prices exceeding $30 in mid- and late February.

In late February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for central and south Florida squash: 1/2 bushel cartons and crates of yellow straightneck small, $20.35-21.85, medium, $18.35-19.85; 1/2 and 5/9 bushel cartons and crates of zucchini small, $30.35-30.85, medium, $28.35-28.85; 3/4 bushel cartons and crates of yellow crookneck, small, $20.85-21.85, medium, $15.35-15.85.

Last year in late February, the USDA reported half and 5/9 bushel cartons and crates of yellow straightneck small from south Florida selling for $28.35-30.85; medium, $26.35-28.85; 1/2 and 5/9 bushel cartons and crates of zucchini small, $14-14.85; medium, $12-12.85; for 3/4 bushel crates and cartons of yellow crookneck small and mediums, $40.

The freezing December temperatures killed all of Immokalee-based Pacific Collier Fresh Co.’s squash, said Jim Monteith, sales manager.

“We lost all of it,” he said in mid-February. “We haven’t done any squash lately. Weather has not been kind to Florida growers. Freezes are worse than hurricanes.”

Steady recovery
Emilio Mirzakhani, general manager of Homestead Pole Bean Cooperative Inc., said the freezing temperatures slowed south Florida squash production.

The co-op resumed regular shipments in mid-February, about a week later than the normal early February start.

“We had some issues up until this point, but from now on, it will be regular production and quality out of the Homestead region,” he said in mid-February.

Mirzakhani said the co-op’s growers plan to ship through early April.

J&J Produce Inc., Loxahatchee, plans to start stronger squash production in late April.

In early February, Jeremiah Miller, salesman, said squash volume was beginning to rebound with small volumes.

He said he expected new squash plantings to harvest in early to mid-March.

“The Florida freezes decimated the plants,” Miller said. “The cold crystallizes the squash.”

Miller called last season strong. He said J&J planned to import large volumes through April from the Dominican Republic. He called offshore quality excellent.

Five Bros. Produce Inc. was shipping large volumes of zucchini, crookneck and straightneck squash in February.

Fred Moore, salesman, called south Florida volume strong and said quality was high as well.

“We have the best quality we have had this year,” he said in mid-February. “We have had perfect weather, which has brought us daytime highs in the 70s and nighttime lows in the 60s without a lot of wind, so it’s been just great for growing.”

Five Bros. plans to ship squash until May 10 before transitioning to Rebecca, Ga., for summer production.

Though the December cold devastated most Florida winter squash, Adam Lytch, operations manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., which packs from Immokalee, said spring volume was starting in late February and that volume should hit in early March. He said L&M planned to start its north Florida harvesting in mid-April.

“Florida squash looks good,” Lytch said in late February. “It has been windy, with gusts in the 30s, so that never helps squash, not that there’s any squash to affect. It’s just a matter of no availability out there. Because of the freezes in Mexico and Florida, the availability of squash will be extremely light.”