MARKET REPORT – FEB. 12TH, 2016
Farming ain’t easy!
The glut of greens continues out of the deserts and Mexico with large producers selling broccoli and lettuce well below production cost. Hot weather has broken out, with record highs over the last few days at many locations, including Yuma. The desert growing areas speckled along both sides of the Mexican border aren’t the easiest places to grow in the first place, with drastic temperatures swings between night and day. Fields are planted in succession – so they will ‘come on’ in a predictable fashion for constant harvest. That’s the goal. Plans have to include slower growth in December and January, so planting every week in September and October doesn’t equate to a new patch ready to harvest every week. Planting every 2 or 3 days in the fall will create ready crops every 7 days in January because of the much cooler soil temperatures slowing things down at that time. On top of that, growers switch varieties, because some have better growth in cooler soil, while others can survive baking heat later in the winter and spring.
What we have now is a perfect storm, where much cooler and wetter conditions in January slowed production to a crawl, and created the price spikes that made media attention, focused on cauliflower. But the heat turned on, and many successions caught up with each other, creating the current glut. But now that temperatures are way higher than normal (Yuma was 32C yesterday – normal is 23C,) and forecast to stay in the low to even mid 30’s for 10 days, crop development is speeding up, bringing on broccoli, lettuce, cauli etc. way ahead of schedule. You know what that means – as soon as this heat wave ends, there are going to be gaps, and prices will spike again. Aren’t you glad you aren’t a farmer?
People often wonder why pricing goes up and down as much as it does. Through an un-trained eye, it may look like price gouging when, for example, celery is selling for well over $100 a case. Put yourself in a farmers shoes for a moment.
If I had fields of broccoli all ready to go today (and knowing that it will be bolting by next Wednesday) I would be selling at any price – I’ve already invested in seed, weeding, adding compost and irrigation. And I am going to under-cut everyone I can to try to increase sales, even though it’s going to cost another $4 to cut, pack and ice the crop. In the end I will lose $5 or $6 on every case, and it is very tempting to just rototill the crop in, but I have 400 people in my labour crew, and if I send them away for a few days, I will be hard pressed to get them back. But, I also know that when the weather is cold and production is limited, that I can sell at a very high price, because the market will take everything I have to harvest, people still want organic broccoli, and it is a seller’s market, and yes, I will be making double my production cost. So it’s not really price gouging when things are tight and prices are high – it’s just making up for all my losses, like over the last couple of weeks when I’m losing money hand over fist.
Farming ain’t easy!
A few other quick notes: Long English Cukes list as QC / VOG are lovely and grown in Canada, eh? You will also see Something Good brand product listed from John Givens – finally he has enough production to squeak out his beautiful bunch carrots and dandelion greens.
It’s time to build a big Fingerling Potato display! This category always picks up when cheaper varieties become un-cheap as local supply runs out. We have a huge selection from multiple BC and Alberta growers.
Finally, just something to think about – we have about 5 tons of indigenous Michoacana hard squash arriving in the next month or so – it will be Fair Trade – these are the original squash that have been hybridized into our “normal” varieties, but they look different. They are large. The ones that look like Kabocha are purple. They are just plain different – but taste and act like regular squash. We will put some marketing effort into this program – and there’s a story behind it. So get in line if you want to have something totally unique – we will keep you informed when arrival is close (it’s still curing), but we’d love to do something fun with this.