Added Burden: Input Costs a Concern for Vegetable Producers

Clint Thompson Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Top Posts

By Clint Thompson

Freight and other input costs continue to be on the mind of vegetable and specialty crop producers heading into the fall season. It is especially concerning for Drew Echols, owner of Jaemor Farms in North Georgia, who is in the middle of a 20-acre watermelon harvest and will pick as much as 200 acres of pumpkins this fall.

Echols remembered a time when he bought pallets for $5. Now, they’re at least doubled that price.

“The watermelon industry is pretty much like a 26-inch bin. Pumpkins are still in the tall 36-inch bin, and I placed an order (recently). They were $15 at my dock, and last year they were $12.80 at my dock,” Echols said. “That’s $2.20. I own 5,000 bins, that’s $10,000. Guess whose pocket that’s coming out of? Unfortunately, that’s just how it is.

“Who knows if the price is going to be there on the pumpkins. And pallets go along with the freight deal. There are plenty of people paying $10 and $12 a pallet when they can get them. That’s an issue. We’re fortunate in that regard that we take in so many pallets on a year-round basis. We just hoard them up for pumpkin season because we grow so many pumpkins. Every bin’s got to have a pallet under it. I’m crossing my fingers, hoping I don’t have to buy any.”

Other Increased Expenses

The rising freight costs are amplified by increased expenses for fuel and fertilizer. What is frustrating for producers is that market prices have not increased at all.

“I look at all these other things; cars and building materials and it just seems like fresh produce is not tracking with everything else. I don’t want to be one of those poor, pitiful me guys. I’m blessed. I’ve got a good job and I’ve got all of my bills paid,” Echols said. “There’s not a whole lot of meat on the bone when it’s all said and done, a lot of times.”