The celery market is red hot in the United States right now, with strong demand and weak supply fueling rising prices. It's a significant turnaround from last year, when excess production caused prices to dip so low, that producers were unable to cover their costs. As a consequence, a number of growers reduced their acreage this year, which is one of the reasons why there is a shortage now.
"The celery market has been very good," observed Doug Lowthorp of Deardorff Family Farms based in Oxnard. "Prices are very high with some quotes into the $40s early this week. This is considerably different to what happened last year. Last year was such a disaster. The market was as low as $8 which is only just enough to cover harvesting costs, let alone growing and packing. Therefore, a fair amount of the crop was left in the field. This year, many growers including us have reduced acreage which is likely one of the reasons for the shortage now."
Spring season will be interesting
In addition to the reduced acreage, weather has played its part on all vegetable commodities in California and adjacent regions in Mexico, celery included. Cool and rainy weather in parts of California have disrupted the harvest, while suppliers of Mexican celery have reported an early finish there.
"We grow and ship all our conventional celery here in Ventura County," Lowthorp noted. "Our harvest has been affected by the rain and it's been difficult to get equipment out into the fields due to the wet conditions. Additionally, some of the shippers in Mexico say they are finishing early this year and I've had a few calls asking if we could help out. Therefore we are experiencing a gap as we speak."
He added that the situation will likely continue through the spring and may even tighten further, with upcoming supplies set to be impacted by the weather conditions. "The weather has meant it's been more challenging to take care of the crop as you normally would. Yields will not be as consistent because there has been more hand labor involved due to the inability of machinery to enter the fields. We expect that supplies could get even tighter over the next few weeks. The spring season is looking to be very interesting for Californian produce."
"Deardorff Family Farms also has a lettuce program that we run through the spring, including Romaine and Red Lettuce," Lowthorp concluded. "We try to fill a void between the desert and Salinas seasons."
For more information:
Deardorff Family Farms
Ph: +1 (805) 487-7801