Growers of organic eggplants in Florida say they have had a mixed season in terms of weather. For the most part, conditions have been steady, but rains have caused the occasional problem. A lack of freezing conditions though have helped growers cultivate a nice crop this season. Quality issues have been minimal, with growers noting them to be short-lived.
"Our organic eggplant season begins in November and finishes towards the end of April," said John Sczimkwicz of Alderman Farms Sales Corp. "Weather-wise, it has not been great this season but has been manageable. While it hasn't been a very cold winter, it was generally cool during January which slowed production. The rain has not been too bad, but when it has come, it falls all at once which is not helpful for the eggplant crop and leads to occasional scarring."
Market influenced by Mexican product
In general, the Florida organic eggplant market has been steady this season. Growers have, however, felt the effects of Mexican product when it enters the US market. Prices tend to drop when this happens, resulting in a scrambling for the business of more price-conscious buyers.
"The markets have been pretty steady except for when Mexico comes in," Sczimkwicz observed. "They come and go but we can definitely tell when they are in. They have a much lower cost structure than we do, so prices drop down whenever they send organic eggplant into the US market."
He added that some buyers will meet them in the middle. "Our prices are not high, but buyers are becoming more price-conscious. Although they typically prefer domestically-grown product, their own cost pressures can lead them to follow the best price. Some customers will meet us in the middle."
Aside from the local factor, Sczimkwicz was also keen to point out the other advantage of product from Florida - freight. "We do have a big freight advantage for East Coast markets."
Alderman Sales Farm Corp. carries the most common variety of organic eggplant - Globe - and delivers in bulk in 18 - 22 count.