MARKET REPORT – NOV. 1ST, 2016
Pictures from our recent visit to Agrofresco:
Here’s why we’re running a huge program with Agrofresco this year! We have about 20 primary vegetable vendors in California, who we draw from, as does everyone else across Canada, from November, when our local producers are winding down, until early June as our growers get going. About ½ of those California growers operate along the coast of California – generally speaking in the Salinas valley, and some farther south in Oxnard. You would recognize Coke Farms, Deardorff, PureVeg labels. Being close to the Pacific, temperatures are similar to our summer-time Fraser Valley conditions from in the early spring, and the fall.
The other ½ of those California growers of chard, kale, lettuce etc. are located along the Mexican border, a few hours east of San Diego in the northern Sonora desert, in El Centro, Holtville, Yuma, etc., and they supply us from late November to March. Heger farms is one of those.
Many large farms like Lakeside, Earthbound and others grow in both areas.
The climate in the desert areas is much different. Much hotter during the day, and much colder at night, but it’s basically the only area in all of the U.S. that has reasonable water and very few frosty nights. The period of time in November and May when growers open up in one area and close down in another is transition time. This is not easy-peasy, primarily because producers can’t offer a full range of greens during the transition. In coastal California, where temperatures generally range from 15C at night to 25C during the day, cilantro is ready in 25 days, broccoli in 60, celery in 100, because each different vegetable has its own ‘days to grow.’
Field manager Victor Valle.
Out in the desert, it’s much different, where the lows range from 4C to 8C and daytime highs are usually in the mid to high 30’s. All the vegetable crops out there take longer to grow because of those cold nights, and with the ones that take a long, long time, like celery, desert growers may not be able to start shipping their full range of vegetables for many weeks or longer at the beginning of their season.
The biggest risk for desert growers is weather, because, especially over the past 6 years, we have seen serious freezes nearly every year between Dec 20th and Feb 20th in the desert South.
This didn’t use to happen, but changing weather patterns over the last few years are moving colder ‘Canadian air’ as they call it, farther and farther south, and as an industry, we have suffered a lot with gaps, limited supply and incredibly high pricing. The soaring prices of cauliflower and celery after a deep freeze last February hit the mainstream news. You probably remember that with some pain. Temperatures of -6C do substantial damage to many crops and we’ve seen that nearly every year since 2011.
We are seeing a huge shift in the vegetable market – both conventional and organic, with major US farm corporations leasing every spare hectare (with water) they can find in central Mexico, because growing in the southern California deserts in no longer a sure bet. Between what are becoming common freezes, water issues and labour shortages, these growers are putting literally thousands of new acres of production into Guanajuato and Jalisco where temperatures are similar to ours in coastal BC in the summer.
These farming areas are generally between 1,500 and 2,500 meters above sea level, and they do experience occasional overnight temperatures close to freezing in January and February, but on average the climate is perfect for leafy greens.
Many years ago, we also saw the writing on the wall – and realized we could no longer depend on California to grow all our winter leafy greens without risks of weather related gaps and price spikes.
So, for those of you who don’t know, that’s why we have worked so hard to develop vegetable programs in central Mexico.
10 days ago we were at Agrofresco (Ecocampos brand) in Guanajuato looking at all the greens being grown exclusively for us for this season. We started doing trials with Gustavo back in the spring of 2013, expanded that to commercial and production trials the next year, and last season we went all out. For this year we have expanded volumes again, seems how we didn’t quite have enough last season. With 4 rotations of Kale and Brussels sprouts and 16 rotations of lettuce, we are occupying a lot of land down there – 35 hectares (80 acres just for those commodities.) We also have unlimited broccoli, radicchio, and celery supply, because Gustavo grows those in large blocks for a couple of major U.S. brands. You are likely already selling his radicchio because it’s in a lot of your major brand clamshell salads.
As you can see from these pictures, we’re pretty excited about the upcoming year, and with our first load shipping soon, look for the full range to start shipping out to you at the end of next week!
In other news……
Miserable Rain (29 out of the last 32) here on the Coast is now turning to Cold Miserable Rain which will slow down a lot of local production. A couple of growers are winding up this week, and selection of greens listings is getting thin. Prices in California markets are still depressed so there won’t be an ‘ouch’ factor as we transition south to California and Mexico over the next 10 days.
An abundance of early season start-ups in Mexico are keeping the prices very low on shade-house crops like zucchini and cukes, but tomatoes are another story, with prices high and climbing on 2 layers, TOV, and trays. OriginO’s local production is winding down. Cold miserable rain is not helping with late season production. Because they are organic they can’t speed things up with chemical fertilizers, and they don’t use auxiliary heat or light like their conventional neighbours. They are starting clean-up on LE cukes, so expect maybe another 2 ½ weeks on those at worst, and an approx. wind-down date of Nov 25 on tomatoes. Peppers are still in fine shape at this point.
Strawberries continue to be a disaster – what a fussy crop! Four days of rain in October, 2 weeks apart seems to continue to have a big impact in Oxnard and Santa Maria – the current production area in California. It rains and all ripening fruit goes mushy and has to be stripped. The next flush of fruit comes on 10 days later and it rains and all ripening fruit goes mushy and then the next…………………. Relief will come soon as San Quentin and Zamora come into production in Mexico……..and all the organic berries in Zamora are grown under hoops so rain isn’t a factor.