Input Expenses Still a Concern for South Florida Growers Ahead of Fall Crop

Clint Thompson Diesel

By Clint Thompson

It is a time to relax, reflect and look ahead to the fall crop if you are a vegetable farmer in South Florida.

“Everybody’s pretty much on vacation in the vegetable world,” said Gene McAvoy, associate director for stakeholder relations at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Southwest Florida Research and Education Center.

One factor remains prevalent on growers’ minds as they reminisce on this past season in preparation for the upcoming year – input expenses and their lack of impact on increasing imports from Mexico.

“The big thing is inflation and the cost of inputs,” McAvoy said. “The big gorilla in the room is Mexico. Anytime you try to raise the price, buyers turn towards Mexico and try to get it cheaper. Theoretically, their costs should have gone up. Transport is a big cost. They’re moving product a lot farther than us. It seems like they don’t have to cover all of their costs.”

Limiting Factor

Mexican imports once again impacted market prices, which were the only limiting factor in preventing Florida growers from experiencing a productive season.

“We had a good season, no major pests or disease issues. The main thing was we had some periods where prices were low. I remember back around Christmas, peppers took a beating. Later on in the spring, tomatoes had a hard time price wise,” McAvoy said. “I think overall we did well. Again, I’m not 100% because I know I talked to growers on things like green beans. The guy was telling me last year they were getting $12 a box and he was making good money. This year it was $16 a box and he wasn’t sure he was going to make any.”

That points to the high input prices growers are having to fork over in today’s economy. Hopefully, that’s not the case for the fall crop. Growers will start planting soon.

“They’ll start putting some plants in the greenhouse in the next couple of days for the fall crop. Towards the end of July, they’ll start preparing land. Even one or two growers may start to plant a few things the end of July,” McAvoy said.