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US hard squash sees high prices due to short supply

Short supply has strengthened the hard squash market thanks to a reduced crop this year. Last year, the market was saturated with product which drove prices down and discouraged farmers from growing hard squash this season. Now the reverse has occurred resulting in a short supply and higher prices.

"There was too much product last year and the market wasn't good," said one wholesaler and shipper based in Florida. "A lot of farmers were growing hard squash and the market became saturated. We had a hard time selling them and the price was very low. So a lot of growers left the market, resulting in short supply this year and a spike in price. Last year at this time, Acorns were going for about $5 whereas this year we're selling them for up to $24. It's supply and demand!"

Season transitions southward
Hard squash used to be a seasonal commodity until imports from Central America commenced and allowed for year-round supply. Currently, Acorn, Spaghetti and Butternut squash are being packed in a broad area stretching from the southeast to the Midwest United States. But the season will gradually wind down as the weather cools in the north and reaches Florida by New Year. 

"By Thanksgiving, a lot of the northern areas will have ceased production and will begin shipping out of storage," continued the source. "Production generally flows up and down the coast with the weather, with Georgia and Florida among the last of the year. Then from January 1 to early May, supply will be coming out of Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. Imported product prices are lower, especially with the high volumes coming out of Mexico. For example, both Butternut and Spaghetti squash hover around the $10-$12 mark, whereas the domestic crop is selling now for between $16-$18."

Weather conditions favor northern crops
Another grower from the Midwest noted that the weather has been ideal over summer for their crop, resulting in a good yield and larger sizes, especially for the specialty Jack O'Lantern squash. "Weather on our farms, specifically those in Illinois and Indiana has been nearly ideal for pumpkins and squash this year," she said. "Ample rain and favorable temperatures have resulted in many of the Jack O’Lantern varieties growing to larger than usual sizes."

Meanwhile, in Florida and Georgia, the short supply wasn't helped by the hurricane conditions there in recent weeks. "The storms and hurricane really damaged the southern crop. It's unknown as to the extent of the damage, but supplies are short in addition to the lower acreage. It also means the squash will not store well and needs to be shipped sooner. Normally, squash should not be in storage for more than 30 days, but when it has grown in wet conditions, that ideally is reduced to a few weeks maximum as they don't like humidity."