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Most promotable volume in mid-January
Florida eggplant starts a month late
Hurricane Irma caused a complete loss for eggplant farmers in the southern part of Florida. They’re just getting started now, a month late. Volume isn’t expected until closer to the Christmas holiday.
External sourcing within Florida
Order fulfillment issues were somewhat of a concern, but Oakes Farms was able to work with outside growers to source eggplants to service their customers. “The demand is definitely there for the long term,” says Steve Veneziano, VP of sales and operations. “Everybody’s calling and looking for our products. With our new grower-partnerships as we go up and down the state of Florida we’ve been able to fulfill these commitments with the chain stores.”
Low yields at the start, then improving
He says yields will be a little bit light for the front part of the crop, but at the end of the season he’s expecting it to be very, very good. Southern Florida’s eggplant will wrap up around May 15, then transition into northern Florida, Georgia, Alabama, New Jersey and circle back to southern Florida for the year-round program.
New eggplant varieties
Veneziano is excited about growing some new varieties of eggplants this year – about 11 different ones. “We were just over in Spain with our seed supplier and breeder and they’ve been working on a specific eggplant for us. Our first trial will be harvesting in early March. We’re very excited about that.” The eggplant will be a darker color and have a nice sheen to it.
Prices double over last year
Prices right now are almost double right now of what they were last year. For the rest of the season, Veneziano says it’s hard to say where they’ll go. “There’s product growing in Mexico; I expect it to be a higher priced market until the first of the year and then it will level off a bit with some more promotable opportunities in mid January for the retailers.”
Field-grown Dominican eggplant in Immakolee, Fla.
Oakes Farming began five years ago in one location with only 56 acres, now currently farming just over 3,000 acres of their own crop in South Florida. They’ve grown considerably through the addition of grower/partners who grow the same varieties using the same packing crews harvesting with the same quality and grading done in Florida. Veneziano has set a steadier paced goal for growth in 2018 by 18-20 per cent per year under the umbrella of nearly 80 commodities and 105 varieties of products.
Heavy Canadian distribution
More partners equalled more distribution. “It has allowed us to continue to branch across the country. Almost 50 per cent of our business is Canadian export. So having partners to be able to keep up with the demand to Canada has been absolutely essential.”
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