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So, here’s our start to the New Year.  I’ve rather poorly numbered each location that has been weather-affected over the past week.

In general it was just friggin’ cold over a vast swath of the winter production areas.  We’ve been talking about this for weeks, because cold nights and cool days do not produce the heat units needed for constant growth.  Which has caused the high market pricing on most crops.  The additional factor over the past week has been not just frosts, but hard, below-freezing frosts that in addition to cold weather cause damage.  Celery and Romaine are the hardest hit because of epidermal blistering – the outer layer of leaves and stalks are unusable and plants have to grow out of the damage.  Here’s a run-down – again numbers below relate to the map above.

  1. Watsonville. Although primarily a summer production area, many growers run year-round operations here. Coke Farm, Lakeside etc.  No berries are grown here in the winter time because it’s a little too cool, occasional frost and too much fog, but lots of veg.
  2. Santa Maria. Farther south of the Watsonville / Salinas area, a lot of winter production, including strawberries. Farther away from the ocean, frost and fog are rare occurrences. Except the last few days.  Growers spray irrigate strawberry fields to cover the plants in ice, which actually stops them from freezing, but all fruit has to be stripped after.
  3. Temecula. 2 hours north of Los Angeles, this is one of many citrus and avocado growing regions in the Ventura area. Similar temperatures were found in other citrus growing areas, including much of the San Joaquin Valley.  At 25F (-3C) citrus quality is affected.  Larger growers especially in the San Joaquin expect some frost every year, and use a combination of natural gas flares and windmills to force warm air through their groves.  Lemon trees die. On the bright side, fruit protects itself by producing added sugar, so navels and mandarin / satsuma / tangerine varieties improve with some frost.
  4. Holtville. In the center of the huge Imperial County production area. I think the thermometer snapped – it was 28F there (-2C) at 7 AM Thursday AM, not 3F shown on the chart.   There has been significant damage here as well as across the line in Mexicali.  Temperatures were identical on Friday morning -2C.

Here’s a couple of pictures from Thursday morning – frost on the Green Onions.

  1. Yuma. Luckily some parts of Yuma only dropped to 1-2C, but others not so lucky. Here’s a damaged celery crop in Yuma to the left.

Here’s Lakeside’s price list yesterday, after their 4th day of “lettuce ice”, and another freezing night ahead of them.  No pricing, just pick up the phone.

Frozen iceberg lettuce near Yuma.

  1. Caborca. The Asparagus capital of North America.

Not the warmest place in the winter, but rarely freezes and never snows.  Except for Wednesday’s 5 cm. that covered the northern Sonora desert right up to Nogales in eastern Arizona.

  1. Hermosillo, Sonora. (Again, for some reason there are glitches in the weather boards – it didn’t go to 3F, it went to 30F /-1C) Home to Divine Flavor, Rico, and dozens of other growers, from Hermosillo south-west to the coast. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and LE Cukes are grown in shadehouses, which offer little protection on frosty nights.  We haven’t got a lot of reporting to date on losses.
  2. Sinaloa. From Hermosillo south for hundreds of miles you will find one of the largest growing regions in Mexico, along the West Coast- especially for ground crops like Zucchini, Spine Cucumbers, Field tomatoes, sugar and snap peas etc. In this pic you are looking at damage from ground frost to a field of zucchini – luckily there was no true hard frost in all areas, but cold enough to damage all those crops.  Here’s what Del Cabo, who grow in both Baja and Sinaloa had to say yesterday:   

Tomatoes.  Zones are reporting very cold temps over the weekend, which slows down fruit ripening.
Frost damage on plants.
Projections have been adjusted from most zones.

Zucchini. Numbers have drastically dropped on projections for the next 5 weeks due to frost damage. Another frost forecasted for this week.

Brown and Limp Cherry Tomatoes in Sinaloa pictured below.

  1. Guanajuato. Our Ecocampos wet veg program is grown in this area (9 on map). Although it is cold in the winter time, and sometimes frosty, plantings are based on those norms, so when it gets extra cold, usually at the end of December, there is still some production.  Even with a colder than normal year, and some frost a couple of weeks ago, we do have product on the move.  It just doesn’t last long when it gets here if we are experiencing shortages from other growers.

So, in general, ‘twas a rough week for the vegetable industry.  Expect high pricing, limited availability and shorts.

Nothing we can do about that but wait it out.

Back next week as we get more actual crop loss information from a lot more growers.

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