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High cucumber pricing factors into the 'salad category' demand

The cucumber market is a strong one right now and is anticipated to continue to be in the near future. “Last year, the cucumber market was not very strong. There was such an oversupply that many growers broke even, didn’t make much, or lost money. This year there was less planted in both growing areas, and both areas have also experienced adverse growing conditions,” says Neil Mazal of East Coast Farms & Vegetables 

Domestically, following the fall 2022 hurricanes, Florida product that would have been available later in the cucumber deal isn’t there. Normally, Florida finishes up for January production from other regions though some growers hang on until January. This year, however, that didn’t happen.

This leaves supplies coming from Mexico and Honduras. “Honduras has been on the cool side, and their crop has been a bit delayed. The early arrivals were lower than expected,” said Mazal.

All regions affected
Cooler temperatures in Mexico have also affected supplies, and another recent cool front will impact supply 10 days or two weeks out. “So altogether, the three supply lines were either diminished or eliminated,” he adds.

As for demand, high pricing is affecting movement, and some consumers are opting to bypass picking up cucumbers for the time being. The same is true for wholesale and food service. Combined with high lettuce prices from West Coast growers and strong tomato pricing, the entire salad category is affected.

As for pricing, the situation is evolving rapidly, and at press time, pricing was moderating. “There is great resistance at retail, wholesale, and food service, which is tamping down the escalation of pricing,” adds Mazal.

Right now, super selects are trading in the mid-$30 FOB; selects in $26-$28 FOB; plain cucumbers are seeing mixed pricing, including $16 out of Mexico but also $23-$25 out of Honduras. “Those are historically high price points for cucumbers. It won’t be a sustainable price point because people don’t have to have a cucumber. They can live without it,” says Mazal.

Contracts pressuring open market pricing
There are also a few other factors at play. Consolidation within the farming area is driving up contract business, business that’s generally conducted at lower price points because contracts are drawn up based on historical markets. “This year, because of the contracted pricing, that drove up open market pricing because they had fewer cucumbers to cover their contracts, and in some cases, contracts were prorated or not honored,” says Mazal.  

Then there’s also indoor farming, particularly on the European cucumber market. “It’s pushed demand for those items, and they’ve been driven up in price because people are looking to those as a substitute. There were a fair amount of small-sized cucumbers hitting the market to cover some of the demand. You normally don’t see an abundance of that size,” says Mazal, noting that even Kirby pickled cucumbers were at historical price points of $40-$45 because they too were being used as an alternative item.  

Transportation is also still a factor as costs continue to grow. “If you have indoor farming in a central city, you’re saving on transportation costs. If you’re paying a truck anywhere from $6,000-$7,500 for a load of cucumbers and there are only 800 cucumbers on that truck, you have a $9-$10 freight factor alone to move that,” says Mazal. “Freight’s very impactful because trucks can only take a certain amount of weight.”

For more information:
Neil Mazal
East Coast Farms & Vegetables
Tel.: +1 (561) 561 286.0286
[email protected]