Red Book Credit Services

Produce Industry Insider Market Update



Florida Sweet Corn Market Snapshot

The U.S. Department of Agriculture was reporting the following prices on sweet corn from South Florida:

Wirebound crates yellow 4 1/2 dozen, $8.20-8.70; white 4 1/2 dozen, $8.20-8.70; bicolor, 4 1/2 dozen $8.20-8.70.

*Prices from the USDA's National F.O.B. Review, April 2.

The Shipping Scene

This year's Florida spring sweet corn crop should reflect some of the best growing conditions the region has had in years, grower-shippers say.

A. Duda & Sons Inc., Oviedo, Fla., kicked off its spring crop March 28, said Ted Wanless, Eastern vegetable sales manager at the company's Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc. subsidiary in Belle Glade.

"April is a good month," for sweet corn, he said, "We're very optimistic."

Duda got off to a good start with No. 1 Fancy quality on yellow, white and bicolor sweet corn, he said.

Volume should be similar to last year, though there may be some peaks and valleys throughout the season.

The company will ship Florida sweet corn through May, then transition to Georgia from June until mid-July.

Growing conditions were warmer than usual during January and February, Wanless said. The good news was that, unlike the past two seasons, there were no killer freezes.

"There were a couple of rain events that we'll have to contend with, but no major issues," he said.

The industry should enjoy a slight spike for Mother's Day in May and get a major sales boost for Memorial Day, May 26.

Duda ships sweet corn in 48-count wood crates, returnable plastic containers and in three- and four-count conventional and microwaveable tray packs packed 12 per case, Wanless said.

Quality from Wilkinson-Cooper Produce Inc., Belle Glade, is excellent as the spring sweet corn crop gets started, said salesman Lamar Groves.

"Volume will be good now through Memorial Day out of Florida," he said, adding that this will be a good time for retailers to promote.

Other than occasional periods of heavy rain, growing conditions were good, he said.

"We've had plenty of rain this spring," Groves said.

Sizes were good and prices were fairly strong on yellow, white and bicolor sweet corn, he said.

The company's volume should be similar to past years.

"It's been a good growing season," agreed Rick Sullivan, president of William Manus Marketing Co., Plant City.

Growers had to do some minor replanting due to rain and cold weather, but, in the end, "Quality is very good," he said, with good sizing and acreage likely up a bit over last year.

Although the company offers yellow, white and bicolor corn, Sullivan said he has seen a trend toward bicolor over the past couple of years.

Sweet corn should be available out of Florida into June, said Danny Raulerson, manager of the Florida Sweet Corn Exchange in Maitland. The state experiences its heaviest volume in April and May.

Quality is excellent this year, thanks to cool nights and plenty of rain to counter last year's drought conditions, he said.

Cold fronts that followed the rain kept the air and the plants cool and suppressed pests and diseases, Raulerson said.

"We couldn't have asked for better weather," he added.

Sweet corn acreage in Florida remains steady at about 20,000 acres, he said.

The Florida Sweet Corn Exchange helps retailers move product by sending merchandisers out to visit stores around the country to meet with produce managers, find out about their needs and their customers' needs, Raulerson said.

They provide point-of-sale materials like posters, recipe cards and care and handling information.

The exchange also is working with celebrity chefs and the syndicated "Mr. Food" TV show, which will feature sweet corn on an upcoming show, Raulerson said.

Radio spots also are scheduled for the Northeast, Midwest and South, and recipes and other information are available on the Web at www.freshsupersweetcorn.com.

(By Tom Burfield, Western correspondent for The Packer. The Packer and Red Book Credit Services are part of food360º, a division of Vance Publishing Corp., Lincolnshire, Ill.)