By Clint Thompson
Low market prices and higher input costs equal a challenging season for the region’s vegetable and specialty crop producers. In a time when farmers need commodities to sell high, prices are among the lowest in recent memory.
“I would say right now that prices are as low as I’ve seen them for this time of year. Pick and pack on a box of peppers, $12, you’re maybe breaking even. On squash at $4, you’re probably not making any money. This is just very harmful for the farmer, and their costs are all going up,” said Neil Mazal with East Coast Farms and Vegetables in Lake Worth, Florida.
“Cost of labor is up. Cost of materials is up. Cardboard for the boxes is higher in price. It’s just a lose-lose situation when it comes to low-cost markets like this. Some of these growers are suffering because of it.”
Supply is exceeding demand.
“Squash market in Georgia is quoted at $6 and $4, fancy and medium, both on zucchini and yellow. The eggplant market is no better than $8 or $9 on fancys, $6 on choice. Cucumbers are trading at $12 to $14 on supers and $5 on selects. You can see with these price points, it’s almost non-profitable to even harvest some of these crops,” Mazal said. “Unless demand improves, it’s unlikely that these growers are going to enjoy a very profitable deal this year.”
Even watermelon prices at 18 cents to 20 cents per pound, though that would have been great prices in recent years, they’re just average this season amid rising input costs.