Spring harvest brings prices down – Produce Blue Book

Overall market prices fell faster than your bank balance after buying a Hallmark Mother’s Day card at the last minute.

Nothing can ever thank our mothers for giving us life, for raising us and, above all, for teaching us to love our fruits and vegetables. But reasonably priced spring produce is a good start.

ProduceIQ index: $1.12/lb, -7.4% from the previous week
Week #18, ending May 6

Blue Book has partnered with ProduceIQ BB#:368175 to bring the ProduceIQ Index to its readers. The index provides a benchmark of agricultural commodity industry prices using 40 major commodities to provide data for decision making.

Spring heat quickly brings crops to a full harvest. The drop in prices is dominated by limes, most melons, broccoli, peppers and cucumbers. Even avocados are enjoying a brief break from steadily rising prices, though a full respite is expected to last until June.

On the other hand, California cherries start their season at $70 per 16-pound case for an 11-row size. The larger cherries, 10 rows, trade for around $78, and the smaller size, 12 rows, can be purchased for $32.

Overall supply is expected to decrease from last year’s bumper crop due to late frost affecting growing areas further north. Prices typically fall from the start of the season until the end as the first mover advantage fades and volume picks up.

As in the fable of Icarus, the limes flew high and crashed quickly. It was not unusual for the limes to reach $40/box before dropping to $10 in early June. However, this winter season has been raised to an extreme altitude, over $60/crate, due to the shortage of large fruit. After prolonged hits since January, exhausted buyers are eagerly awaiting a return to normalcy. Recent rains are helping fruit size and prices are falling faster than usual.

Lime markets require special attention as quality fluctuates and falling prices have found no bottom.

Good supplies of seedless watermelon in South Florida are driving prices down, currently $0.22 to $0.23/pound. The prices and quality of watermelon in the domestic market have a wider range because the producers are fragmented. Unlike other commodities, such as corn, watermelon growers are less consolidated and can be less price disciplined.

Logistics becomes more critical as freight can cost more than the fruit itself. Watermelon is a great item to promote as summer approaches.

Spring prices for seedless watermelons in the East vary widely as growers disperse geographically.

Florida is starting to feel like summer as temperatures reach 90 degrees. South Georgia remains in spring mode with temperatures in the 80s. The pulse category shifts to Georgia in May, with shorter-growing crops becoming ready earlier: squash is first, then cucumbers, then pepper.

The USDA does not use industry-recognized sizes for American slicing cucumbers, such as super picks and selects. Their data is represented in small and medium sizes. USDA brackets are $13, while super picks trade around $16. Prices generally come down in the Georgian season unless a gap occurs.

Cucumbers, of medium size, continue to fall from the late winter harvest. Florida will make the switch to Georgia later this month.

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ProduceIQ Index

The ProduceIQ Index is the fresh produce industry’s only shipping point price index. It represents the industry-wide price per pound at the packing point for domestic products and at the US port of entry for imported products.

ProduceIQ uses 40 commodities to represent the industry. The index dynamically weights each commodity, by season, based on the weekly 5-year moving average of sales. Sales are calculated using the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service for movement and price data. The index serves as a fair benchmark for industry price performance.