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Strong bell pepper market could remain through Thanksgiving

Green bell peppers are seeing a perfect storm in supply, and that's creating strong markets.

In Georgia, production there was impacted by Hurricane Idalia at the end of August. "There were lots of lost plants and/or bloom drop and/or canopy that were messed up, which created some off-grade peppers which slowed down production. The yields are also off," says Neil Mazal of East Coast Farms & Vegetables, who notes that local deals such as Canada, North Carolina, Michigan, and New York have all wrapped up for field production, leaving production largely in Georgia's hands.

Pepper plantings in East Coast Farms' fields in Parkland, Florida.

As for markets, current FOBs for #1 peppers is $24; for Choice peppers, which, if they are available, have a good size though are heavily misshapen thanks to the weather conditions, are $20 FOB Georgia. "This time of year, you'd normally see an $8-$10 Choice market," says Mazal.

This is likely to impact the colored pepper markets, given growers may not want to wait for peppers to turn color to take advantage of these markets. "Usually, when you wait for plants to turn color, there is an additional shrink, and you are subject to inclement weather that might hurt them. The advantage to picking it green is spending less money on spray and fertilizer," he says.

What also makes this unusual is that generally, green peppers aren't as much of a mainstream item anymore. While they're always on the shelf as an option for consumers, they're rarely a featured item in promotions and are used less in food service. "Consumers are more oriented towards the sweeter pepper, so green peppers have become a less attractive market for growers," says Mazal.

West Coast pepper supply
When it comes to availability right now, on the other side of the country, the California desert also has weather-related issues such as rain and fewer plantings. "Those in the desert have lower yields, and there is also less availability, so the markets are matching the East Coast FOBs," he says.

Another look at the Parkland fields.

Meanwhile, Mexican production won't likely have volume available for another two to three weeks. "Some weather went through the lower midsection of Mexico, which has significant acreage of green pepper and shade house/greenhouse green peppers. There will be delays and/or reduced production there," says Mazal. He also notes that this week, there are reports that Eastern Mexico was impacted by the storm that came out of the Pacific Ocean side and moved over Mexico, damaging fields and shade house peppers.

In all, there may not be a flush of availability until Florida begins its production in the second/third weeks of November. East Coast Farms has almost 800 acres of vegetables planted in South Florida, with a significant planting of pepper, and Mazal believes its harvest will begin on the earlier side of the season. "We have had rain, but the ground has taken the water very well," he says, noting that in some parts of Florida, some growers have seen excessive rainfall, and disease has become an issue with some small plants that are only starting to grow now.

"In all, it is going to be a relatively strong market thanks to the late plantings, inclement weather, and reduced acreage. I see underlying strength on peppers staying through November," he says.

For more information:
Neil Mazal
East Coast Farms & Vegetables
Tel.: +1 (561) 286-0286
[email protected]