By Clint Thompson
High input costs. Supply availability. Weather unpredictability. All are challenges that Georgia’s specialty crop producers are facing this year. But the main concern remains market pricing, or lack thereof. Growers are still being haunted by imports and their impact on producers being able to make a profit, said Chris Butts, executive vice president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA).5188.8.131.520.80.194.146
“I hate to sound like a broken record, but we still have growers face tremendous pricing pressures from imports. That level of pricing gets down to the level where it becomes unprofitable for them to harvest and process. If we can keep prices up, that would be helpful, because it seems like it’s a good year for growing and for growers. It’s just whether or not they can make any money,” Butts said.
The main concern is with squash production. Prices have dropped to low levels for this commodity, which is heavily impacted by imports from other countries. Pepper prices are holding on, while cucumbers are okay for specialty crop producers.
“I’m not an economist, but I do understand that when you’ve got more product than demand, prices are going to go low. When we see that volume coming across the border continuing to increase, it’s going to keep those pricing pressures on a downward trend, which is not good,” Butts said. “Look at all of the things that have been thrown at farmers the last couple of years; huge increases in input costs, potential shortages on diesel and other inputs, there’s still sporadic instances of not being able to get parts, product and chemicals. They’ve demonstrated they can work through all of that. They can even work through high labor costs.
“But if you do all of that and you’re not able to sell your product at a sustainable price, you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘What’s the point?’ It is by far the overwhelming concern that we have.”