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Florida eggplant growers hurt by excess offshore supply
Florida growers of eggplant have been experiencing much warmer temperatures than what the state endured a month ago. The warmth has returned, bringing with it improved growing conditions and a boost in eggplant production. However, they are still on the lookout for the effects of wind damage that occurred several weeks ago.
"The weather has been very good lately, providing perfect growing conditions for eggplant," said Thomas Armata, of C&B Farms. "With highs in the 80s this week, the warmer temperatures have helped improve production. Winds affected the crop a few weeks ago, during the growing stage and we have yet to see the effect that has had. There is a chance there will be more #2 quality product moving forward. Overall though, growing conditions are very good and we're confident eggplant quality will remain good."
Domestic market hurt by Mexican supply
While growing conditions have meant that growers in Florida are enjoying improved production levels, they have also noted that excess supply from Mexico has impacted on the market. Prices have been flat, resulting in domestic growers having to make cut backs.
"The market has been very bad because of the Mexican deal," Armata said. "They continue to undercut US production and flood the market with produce. We grow Indian, Italian, Sicilian as well as Dominican eggplant varieties. There is a lot of offshore competition in the market for the Italian and the Sicilian varieties in particular. In Mexico, they have also had their weather problems, however the volume is too significant and US farmers are suffering as a result."
Armata said growers overall support offshore supply when it complements domestic supply. But he noted that when imports are in direct competition with domestic supply, the end result is cutbacks for the US grower.
"Growers are all for importing produce to complement domestic supply, or when it's not in season, for example stone fruit out of South America," he said. "However, US farmers are really hurt by offshore supply that overlaps and is produced in excess quantities and at a lower cost. For the last 2-3 years, we have had to cut back eggplant volume by about 30%, and growers have also had to lay a lot of product on the ground when it can't be sold. At the end of the day, it means the US farmer is putting less product in the ground."
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