JV Smith Companies President and CEO Vic Smith and GreenGate Fresh EVP Bill Munger Discuss the Yuma Veggie Season
YUMA, AZ - There is no more temperamental factor in the produce industry than Mother Nature, yet resilience is key. Growers in Yuma continue to produce yield despite weather continuing to present a challenge, JV Smith Companies President and CEO Vic Smith and GreenGate Fresh Executive Vice President Bill Munger shared.
“Our quality and supply are improving each week and we should have fair supplies for Christmas pull,” Vic tells me, despite its having been a temperamental transition to the desert this year. “We seem to have worked through most of the issues of the prior three weeks but cauliflower still appears to be an endangered species.”
JV Smith Companies is well into its Yuma season, with additional support in the heart of the Baja, Mexico’s growing region. Currently the company is shipping lettuce, romaine, broccoli, baby spinach, spring mix, arugula, various herbs and green onions.
GreenGate is also settled into Yuma, with iceberg and romaine lettuce, and Bill tells me that though freezes have been making the season more eventful, it is mostly on the production side that the struggles are noted.
“The frost affects the leaves, which slows us down in the processing facility and in the field when harvesting,” Bill explains, adding that the result is mostly more time trimming off the leaves that are affected and leaving more leaves behind. “The product that gets to the processing plant is still good, usable product, and from the customer’s end it’s the same quality product.”
This could become more frequent, however, as we head into a period of cooler-than-normal-weather, which both cautioned could result in supplies being on the lighter side after the Christmas push.
“Frost damage has affected both quantity and quality, on iceberg we’re seeing reduced yields on the field level of about 20%,” Bill explained of what GreenGate has seen in combatting the cold.
Another factor growers continue to keep in mind is what El Niño could bring, though it looks as though this has not yet affected the fields in Yuma.
“We have yet to experience any real El Niño activity which is obviously imminent,” Vic says.
In fact, the storms El Niño is supposed to bring aren’t expected to hit for a while, which Bill said should have little impact as everything to be planted in Yuma will have been planted by the first of the year.
“By the first of the year anything in Yuma that will be planted will be planted, so any effect El Niño will have is short-term on whether or not we can harvest that day,” Bill said, adding that the more profound effects will be in the spring.
For now it is safe to say that prices have fallen since Thanksgiving, which Bill said were up to $30-35 a box for Romaine at the time, and to anticipate a tightening in supply for the weeks to come. He shared with me, however, that the pricing patterns in the market are only partially dependent on that, with other factors contributing to the numbers. “If it was strictly supply and demand we could see some elevated prices, but there’s a lot of other things - demand around the country, how is product moving around the country, and then quality.”
With more freezes projected for the area, stay tuned to AndNowUKnow as we keep our finger on the pulse in Yuma.