Supplies of baby bell peppers are coming on strong now.
“Supplies were tight before. But more growing regions are coming on and supply is plentiful for all of our commodities,” says Fiona McLean of DelFrescoPure® based in Kingsville, Ont. Currently, supplies of baby bells come from Canada and Mexico as well as the U.S. “Competition is coming from the same regions with additional U.S. hothouse production. There’s also a shift in Canadian production transitioning to year-round production so there’s additional acreage under grow lights,” says McLean, who adds that DelFrescoPure® is starting its new organic sweet bell pepper line in April or possibly sooner.
Compared to last year at this time, supplies of baby bells are less but that has more to do with the current market situation. “It’s been more the demand that has created these markets. The demand is much stronger,” says McLean. “We’re in unprecedented times. Historically there’s usually more supply than demand can handle but this year we anticipate it being more level.” She notes that both the U.S. and Canadian markets are pulling very strong.
The greater demand on produce has largely to do with, of course, COVID-19 circling the globe. “The biggest challenge we’re dealing with regarding COVID-19 is anxiety at all levels from staff, supply chain, labor issues, border closures and consumers,” says McLean. (Note: while the Canada-USA border is closed, trade is not impacted.) “It’s made market readings more difficult and complex.”
The pricing picture
As for pricing, prices have been high and McLean notes that they’re just starting to level off. “Compared to a year ago, I would say they are almost double,” she adds.
Looking ahead, it’s hard to know how things will shake out for the produce industry. “I’ve seen an impressive commitment from all retail partners to continue with supplies and consumers are seeing messaging to relieve the anxiety of food security in an unsettled time,” says McLean. “I think there will be an increase in demand for produce as shelter or social distancing continues within both markets. This limits or restricts foodservice operators and the shift is transferred to retail partners to fill the gap across North America.”
Meanwhile, with restaurant closures and increasing retail sales, McLean notes that consumers are reconnecting with their culinary skills and back to basics with family meals and experiences. “I’ve experienced this myself while practicing social distancing. My daughter asked me how to cut a tomato correctly? And we proceeded with the four core skills--coring, slicing, dicing and the perfect wedge for salads,” says McLean. “This transition offers the opportunity to take a step back and review what’s important.”