Storms and rain herald a return to winter in US

The last week has seen wintery conditions return to the United States. This follows a period of relatively mild weather and the arrival of spring-like conditions across many of the growing regions. The Northeast experienced a strong winter storm, while California and surrounds saw rainfall and close to freezing temperatures. These have affected crops in very different ways, but overall did not result in any significant losses or damage. 

Northeast storm
Winter storm Riley passed relatively slowly in a line from Ohio through the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England. Coastal flooding and strong winds resulted in damage to coastal structures and also to La Guardia airport where some flights were cancelled. 

Overall, there was minimal impact on fresh produce. Around the New York City and New Jersey regions, transport delays did occur, both for land and air freight. "There have been a few trucks delayed and we have reduced the delivery area to keep drivers safe during the storm," said Patrick Ahern of Baldor Specialty Foods in New York. "Some air shipments from both Europe and California have been delayed by a day or two but this is mainly due to weather conditions at the points of origin. However, for the most part, it's business as usual."

Parts of upstate New York received significant amounts of snowfall, especially along the Hudson River Valley, with up to 40 inches of snow reported. For the most part, average snowfall was close to 12 inches, a lot of which fell in the heart of New York State's apple growing region. The apple trees were not affected, however, as they have not emerged yet from their Winter dormancy.

"The trees are still asleep," said a spokesperson from Hudson Valley Fruit Distributors. "There has been no damage to the crops as the trees are still getting ready for Spring and have not yet budded."

Cooler conditions and some rain arrived in the Imperial Valley. Image: Coastline Family Farms

Rain and cold in the Southwest
Less than two weeks ago, growers in California and Arizona were reporting that crop production was very strong and were expecting an early finish to the season on numerous commodities from lettuce, to strawberries, to cabbage and broccoli, among others. However, cold and rainy weather in the last week has slammed the brakes on production. Many items are expected to now enter a period of tight supply, however the effects of the warm conditions from a few weeks ago means that the desert regions are still expected to see an early finish.

"Last Monday, we saw ice across the desert regions followed by light rain on Tuesday," said Mark McBride of Coastline Family Farms. "Cooler conditions are continuing but the rain has stopped now. Above average temperatures throughout February resulted in strong production and brought everything ahead of schedule. The recent cooler conditions have slowed growth and disrupted normal harvesting schedules on many commodities. We expect that cauliflower will be the hardest hit, followed closely by broccoli, as both of these are very temperature sensitive. Most commodities will now enter a period of uncertainty in supply."

"It is still anticipated that the desert region will finish early," he continued. "However, due to the erratic temperatures, we expect to see a disruption to supplies as well as a greater variation in sizing on the majority of items for the remainder of the desert deal."

Rain welcome in Central Valley
Up until the recent rainfall events, much of California was in near-drought conditions. In the Central Valley, although the rain has slowed down growth and may present some minor quality issues moving forward, many growers are welcoming the rain and are seeing the long term benefits. 

"The rain will certainly affect supplies in the immediate future and we may also see a small amount of light damage to fruit," said one Salinas based berry grower. "We feel as though we are having our winter now. However all this rain is very welcome as it will get some nitrogen into the soil. We were also on the brink of drought, so we are seeing the rainfall as a positive for the long term."

For more information:
Patrick Ahern
Baldor Specialty Foods
Tel: +1 (718) 860-9100

Mark McBride
Coastline Family Farms
Tel: +1 (831) 755-1430

Publication date: 3/5/2018
Author: Dennis M. Rettke

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