By Clint Thompson
Florida’s sweet corn producers are feeling the pinch of various factors affecting consumer demand this season; most notably, the inflationary prices and colder spring weather up north.
Both contributed to suppressed prices for the state’s growers, says Tori Rumenik, commodity service and supply chain manager for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.
“Our product goes to retail. It’s one of those things where, from my experience, but sweet corn is not one of those that people have on their (grocery) list all the time. If it looks good in the store, you’re going to grab it and add it to whatever meal you’re going to have. It’s not a grocery list staple,” Rumenik said. “If there’s increased prices, people are (also) going to change their habits. If meat costs more, then that’s dollars they don’t have to spend in other areas or they’re just going to shift to something else. These impulse buys, it doesn’t seem like they’re happening as often as they’ve had in the past.”
Prices are also down due to a lack of demand up north. Rumenik explains why.
“One of the biggest indicators for us in the past on what movement is going to look like is what does the weather look like up north. A lot of people think about corn, they throw it on the grill at a barbecue. If there’s still snow on the ground up north, there’s not as many people going out and buying corn to throw on the barbecue,” Rumenik said. “This time of year, normally, it’s starting to warm up a little bit, but it’s been a strange year where it just stayed cold up north.
“We haven’t seen that demand up there pick up as much as we would normally expect it to.”
Demand should start to increase around Memorial Day, one of the three major holidays (along with July 4 and Labor Day) where sweet corn is highly valued. However, that would benefit Georgia growers more than Florida producers.
Rumenik stresses that Florida’s sweet corn has been top-notch this season.
“There’s a lot of sweet corn in Florida. The quality is excellent. We have inspectors that go out and check our coolers and what the product coming out of the field looks like, and every week they’ve been reporting back that quality is excellent,” Rumenik said.
Rumenik and the Sunshine Sweet Corn Farmers of Florida remain steadfast in their efforts to educate consumers about the value of sweet corn year-round.
“That’s one thing we’ve been trying really hard to change is (the perception) that sweet corn is a summer food. To us, sweet corn can be a fall, winter and spring food,” Rumenik said.