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Chili pepper supplies feeling the Florida weatherThe Hurricane Irma effect is being felt in the supply of chili peppers in the U.S. right now.
“There is good availability of chili peppers in the West at the moment. However Florida supplies are light at this time,” says Randy Bailey of Bailey Farms in Oxford, N.C.
Bailey points out that the supply right now is much tighter than it was last year at this time. “Hurricane Irma disrupted the planting schedules making the south Florida season late this year. And then when we were just beginning to get into some volume there, the weather turned cold,” says Bailey, whose peppers are supplied for both retail and foodservice customers. “We have had two cold periods with lows in the mid 30s. Last year we had above normal warmth for the whole winter which made supplies plentiful.”
Along with South Florida, supplies are coming in from Mexico.
Boost in supply?
Of course, that makes for stronger prices compared to a year ago, albeit steady pricing.
Looking ahead though, the warmer weather that is forecast for Florida in the coming weeks should bring a boost in production. “It seems hot peppers are featured in recipes more than ever so I would anticipate gradual increases in consumption of hot peppers,” says Bailey.
However, as many commodity suppliers right now are seeing, moving that increased production could be an issue. “The biggest challenges right now are freight and labor,” says Bailey, noting that it’s seeing a major boost in both the cost and availability of trucks since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandated that trucks carry electronic logging devices (ELDs) as of December.
“Overall freight rates are about 50 percent higher than last season and are harder to find,” says Bailey. “It’s worrisome to think about what may happen as we get into the warmer months ahead when there is even more demand for trucks.”
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