Duda Farm Fresh Foods' Rick Alcocer Details High-Quality Celery Crops
OXNARD, CA - Growers are doing the land shuffle in central California this month, migrating from one field to another in preparation for the next harvest. Salinas and Oxnard, California, are two of the big territories involved in this transition, and Duda Farm Fresh Foods is utilizing both for its celery harvests. The company is currently transitioning from Salinas to Oxnard, so I spoke with Rick Alcocer, Senior Vice President of Fresh Sales, who reported that quality is looking good ahead of the holidays.
“The supply of celery is in transition and we are in the midst of the Thanksgiving demand, which will be closely followed by Christmas, holiday parties, endless weekends of college football bowls, and culminate with the Super Bowl,” said Rick. “Most growers plant in anticipation of the increased demand during this unique time of year, so we anticipate adequate supplies, unless Mother Nature has other plans.”
In addition to this anticipation, Rick said that warm and mild months leading into the Oxnard season have brought about a solid crop. That being said, Duda is confident that it will be well-positioned in the celery department this year.
“The week of November 11 and November 18 should be the heaviest for the Thanksgiving demand, but the gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas is shorter this year, so we do not expect much of a break in demand after Thanksgiving through Christmas,” Rick added. “Last year, we saw prices take off after Thanksgiving into the early spring and peaked at $72 per box due to lighter supplies and the unanticipated demand fueled by juicing. We do not expect anything like that this season.”
With the rise in overall celery consumption last year, fueled by the popularity of juicing, many shippers increased their acreage to meet the demand. According to Rick, that overall increase seems to be between 8-10 percent.
“Like others, we planted additional acreage to meet the overall growth in the celery category. For our fresh-cut operations, we have greatly expanded daily production capacity and matched that with increased acreage of our special proprietary celery varieties,” he remarked.
And while all of this hustle and bustle unfolds in California, the company is looking at another popular growing state for supplies in 2020.
“Our Florida celery season will begin slightly earlier than normal, aiming for the second week of December,” Rick concluded. “This is great news for many of our East Coast customers and we have had excellent growing conditions that should supply a very high-quality crop. The Florida season will run through mid-April.”
That’s all we’ve got on celery for now, folks. To see how growers are ramping up for another successful season, stay tuned to ANUK.