Transition Time

Except for the West Coast, business for Easter ’08 is done. Trucks are either at their destinations or on the way. As a result, business is starting to back off this week. In fact, many orders that were scheduled to load this week are being canceled or cut back, as buyers see that they have TOO much product on the way or in their warehouse. This is certainly typical going into just about any holiday week.
Next week, the week of 3/24, starts the Spring transition for 2008. Huron starts with head lettuce, romaine, mix leaf. Salinas starts with broccoli and cauliflower, as well as other specialty items. The desert areas will still be going, but as the temperatures heat up, things will come to a RAPID close. Of course, the markets have plenty to do with how long shippers will go. If prices are good, expect them to hang on for as long as they can. If markets are sloppy, they won’t hesitate to “pull the pin”
Long range weather shows Spring-like conditions in Salinas, Santa Maria, Oxnard, and Huron areas with cool, mild, dry days and cool nights. The desert shows temperatures pushing the 90’s during the day.
Trucks are SCREAMING about the high fuel costs, and pushing truck rates just about every day. Just to give you an idea, we are getting quotes that are equal to, or MORE than the end of May or first of June! We have NO idea what the Summer holds as far as rates are concerned.

LETTUCE–steady. The desert will be finishing up for the most part next week, while Huron is looking to start. We aren’t sure what the market will do. An overlap usually means it will remain steady to sluggish, while a “gap” could allow prices to be pushed upward. Quality is another issue. Hot temperatures in the desert hurt quality, while the first lettuce coming off Huron fields are usually nothing to write home about, either.

BROCCOLI–strong market. Supplies are a bit light and demand is good. Prices are higher than last week, but as Easter demand cools, we could see prices stall out.

CAULIFLOWER–shippers have been pushing prices up for the past 10 days and could be close to maxing it out. There will certainly be resistance at the retail end, which will slow demand.

LEAF ITEMS–no change here. The desert will continue to go for another 10 days or so, and Huron will get cranked up next week. We aren’t sure where the markets are headed, so we will say things will be “steady” going into next week.

CELERY–demand is backing off, after the Easter push. The desert will go another 2 weeks, then switch totally back to Oxnard for the Spring. We don’t see the celery market doing much for a while.

STRAWBERRIES–we got through the Easter week in fairly good shape. Our wish came true, in that Florida hung on long enough with acceptable quality to supply most of the East coast with their needs. That was certainly welcome in California! We see supplies really starting to pick up as we get closer to April.

ASPARAGUS–shippers are desperately trying to hang on to their prices after the Easter pull. But, demand is really falling off, with orders being cut back, or canceled. The expected hot temperatures in the desert will finish off the desert deal very quickly, then we will switch to the Spring deal in Stockton and Lodi.

Spring Training

Major League Baseball teams are starting to gather their players together for the upcoming season. One place that many teams come to for Spring training is in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Warm days, and mild nights are the things you notice right away, and desert vegetables are not far away. Yuma is only a few hours away and has the same kind of weather. So, we associate Spring training with the Spring vegetable time. Most items are REALLY starting to come on and, in particular, asparagus. It’s getting to be THAT time of year.
Long range weather for the next 10 days in the desert growing areas show highs getting into the high 70s and low 80s. More importantly, lows are in the high 40s to low 50s, which are out of the FREEZE territory.
Still plenty of trucks, and with fuel costs dropping a bit, rates are more flexible.

LETTUCE–plenty of lettuce, and size and weights are picking up. In fact, we are seeing some big, HARD heads that aren’t necessarily attractive on the shelf. We are after lettuce in the mid 40’s for weight and medium large head size. The market remains fairly flat.

BROCCOLI–good supplies of 14s, 18s, and crowns and the markets remain fairly flat. Quality mostly nice out of the desert, while product in the Salinas and Santa Maria areas are not as good. Purple cast and some water spotting showing up.

CAULIFLOWER–not much change here. Markets steady, as are supplies. We are seeing a few more 9 size and there could be some good deals there this week.

LEAF ITEMS–good supplies of green, red, boston, and romaine, and prices are steady to slightly lower. Quality improving daily, as we are slowly working out of the freeze-effected product from December and January.

CELERY–steady to slightly stronger on all sizes, especially on the smaller size 36s and 48s. Supplies coming out of Oxnard and the desert, making truck loading easy.

ASPARAGUS–as temperatures in the desert climb, so do supplies. Most everyone has shifted to 28/1# containers. Demand for grass hasn’t kicked in yet, so there are deals around that are being done for less than the “quoted” prices. Good item to push for the weekend.

STRAWBERRIES–dry, mild weather in the berry country of Oxnard and Los Angeles for the next 10 days, which should bring on supplies. In fact, Driscoll says they should double their numbers next week of what they are currently doing. Prices are still not close to Florida, but we DO have nice quality and should improve daily as long as it stays dry.

Slowing Trend

Now that the holidays are over, demand is sluggish.  The days are cold, causing slow growth for most items.   Desert temperatures remain cool, some nights are below freezing, and as stated before, can result in epidermal peel, blister and discoloration.   Demand has not picked up and markets are settling to where they normally are this time of year.  We are encouraging our customers to begin thinking about ads, especially with broccoli, cauliflower, head lettuce and romaine.
Plenty of trucks looking for loads.  Trucks rates are decreasing slightly, but mostly leveling out due to record high fuel costs.  Rates are much higher than last year because of this.
Forecasts show less rain in the coming days, giving us a chance to dry out.  Warmer temperatures are expected as well.

LETTUCE — Cold nights are definitely taking their toll on head lettuce, supplies are improving from last week, but we are still seeing quite a bit of epidermal peel, blister peel and discoloration.  Most of the problem is on the external leaves, shaving the heads at production and receiving levels  has helped, but continue to be aware of these problems that are typical for this time of year.

BROCCOLI — Sharp drops in the market, we saw the broccoli crown price drop by a few dollars overnight  late last week and adjustments had to be made.  Some discoloration has been found, a result of as little as one or two nights of freeze.  As we said before, expect discoloration and make it clear that it is an industry wide problem we are facing at the moment.

CAULIFLOWER — Very similar to the broccoli market, prices leveled out as cost exceeded demand.  Cauliflower is very affected by extreme elements, so there have been a few quality problems mostly with discoloration.  Shippers are NOT standing behind these problems, as they are also industry wide problems.  Some 9s are now available, however supplies are still light, as we are seeing more smaller sized cauliflower, once again, due to cold temperatures in the desert.

LEAF ITEMS– Still showing epidermal peel and other defects.  The leaf market has been gradually  slowing, warmer temperatures will significantly help growth of romaine, red and green leaf, hopefully the recent cold will be short lived.

CELERY — Still fairly steady, most sizes are ready and available. Production has mostly recovered after last week’s rains in Oxnard and the desert.  Expect prices to hold steady for now, production should increase as the temperature warms this week and next. Smaller sizes are more prevalent and shippers are looking to move.

STRAWBERRIES –Berries are trying to make a move but the cold temperatures are holding back production.  Santa Maria and Oxnard areas are staying dry, but the cold is still hindering color on the berries.  Shippers are not ready to promote just yet, but will have a better idea in the next coming weeks. For now, we just have to wait and see.