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South Florida readies for winter squash production

Squash production in Florida is slowly finishing up in the western growing region, to be taken over by the southern region for the Winter. Cooler growing conditions in the last week have slowed plant growth which has contributed to a general tightening of supplies.

"West coast Florida squash production, focused around the Plant City area, is coming to the end of the season soon," said Tom Nicholson of Ben Bud Growers in Florida. "South Florida, centered around Homestead, is about the only place that grows squash through the winter. Hurricane Irma did not damage any crops, however it did cause the season to be delayed. Therefore, supplies are a little tight at the moment."

"This week was particularly cold," Nicholson continued. "We saw night time temps in the 40s and day time highs in the 60s. Squash is one of the most sensitive to temperatures, and it's the first to slow down in cold weather, which is what we saw this week. It compounded the tightness in supply, but with forecasts of day time highs back into the 80s next week, we expect to see the crop regain growth."

Market higher
With supply tight and demand for the Holiday season beginning to build, prices have strengthened in the last couple of weeks. Production out of Nogales, however, has been solid, which has kept a lid on prices.

"Everything is tight right now and the market has really strengthened up," Nicholson said. "There is a lot of Nogales product which has kept prices contained. However, we are seeing squash prices about $6-$8 a box higher than they were 2 weeks ago. With the jump in demand in the lead up to Christmas, we expect to maintain that market level."

South Florida acreage dwindling
Nicholson said that squash production in the south of Florida has reduced over the last couple of decades. He has observed that many growers have pulled out of production in the wake of an increasing urban area on the outskirts of Miami. "There is not as much squash being grown in the South Florida area than previously," he said. "In the last 20 years or so, we have seen squash acreage reduced by as much as 50% in the Homestead area. There has been a lot of construction and housing developments in the South Florida area and many growers have sold their farms."

Nicholson added that increasing numbers of squash from Mexico is deterring any potential growth in the area. "One of the contributing factors of the reduced Florida acreage is the increase in production from Mexico." 

For more information:
Tom Nicholson
Ben Bud Growers
Tel: +1 (561) 347-3100