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California storm delays harvesting and could cause future supply gap

Following recent rains and in particular, Sunday’s severe rain and wind that descended upon California, produce growers/shippers are taking stock of the situation.

Photo: Braga Fresh

That starts with harvest delays in some vegetable crops. “Depending on the amount of rain, the delay could be a day or more. This will hurt production capabilities if not managed well during harvest and allowing fields ample time to dry out,” Rob Giragosian of Kern Ridge Growers, LLC says. “As long as the harvest isn't delayed longer than two days, we should be able to run at almost normal capacity.”

He doesn’t anticipate the weather event to affect vegetable pricing yet. “With other regions producing, we don’t anticipate the pricing to change much due to the weather,” he says.

At Braga Fresh, Kyle Harmon says that field conditions are very wet but with surprisingly no major damage. “The rain was slow and steady in Soledad, allowing the fields to absorb much of the rain,” he says. “We have standing water in a few spots, but not what I would expect with over 2” of rain.”

Photo: Braga Fresh

Covering crops
Harmon says it has planted cover crops in the blocks that are historically an issue for ponding. “The cover crop allows for the water to percolate much faster and holds the topsoil in place. We also have retention ponds throughout the ranch to slow down water that runs off,” he says.

At the moment, the only crop it's harvesting in the Salinas Valley is organic Sweet Baby Broccoli, which it did harvest early in preparation for the storm.

As for the effect on supply, with 99 percent of its product coming from its southern region, Braga doesn’t anticipate any issues. “This has the potential for a gap in May due to missed plantings, but that will be determined on any future storms this week,” he adds.

Photo: Braga Fresh

Regarding plantings, Jeff Church, chief operating officer for Church Brothers Farms says it’s in the middle of spring planting in Salinas.

“Broccoli and cauliflower are always planted first, but since there’s no rain in the forecast, we may be able to make up lost time if we have a dry week,” says Church. “For the other crops, it will be wait-and-see. Last year, the storms were much worse and we still covered everything.”

Meanwhile, he says in Oxnard, where it’s growing celery, the heavy rains are slowing down harvest, but there is no major damage to the crop yet. ”We probably need a week or so to assess the rain's long-term impact,” Church adds, noting it doesn’t anticipate markets to be affected at this time though that too is a wait-and-see situation.

For more information:
Rob Giragosian
Kern Ridge Growers, LLC

Kyle Harmon
Braga Fresh

Jeff Church
Church Brothers Farms