TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) – We all know December was frigid in Florida, it was devastating to farmers and that could mean high prices for some vegetables, or even to shortages in some crops badly hurt by the cold weather.
December’s wave of unusually cold weather has destroyed much of Florida’s green beans and sweet corn, and that’s bade because Florida is the nation’s largest producer of green beans and sweet corn — the kind of corn we eat.READ MORE: Crews To Demolish Remains Of FIU Bridge That Killed 6 In Collapse
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, the state lost $273 million from the December freezes alone — including nearly 9,000 acres of crops.
What’s worse, the statistics are compiled only through Dec. 20, which means they don’t even account for the problems caused by the chilly final week of the year.
2010 dealt a one-two punch for the state’s farms. An 11-day spell in January was one of the area’s coldest periods on record, and December has had an unprecedented trio of cold fronts.
Sam Accursio lost nearly all of his pickling cucumbers at his Homestead farm last January. Eleven months later, about half of his new crop has been wiped out.
“It’s crazy,” Accursio said. “I’ve never experienced a growing season where we’ve had four frosts in one year.”
Gov. Charlie Crist extended the state of emergency for Florida’s agricultural community this week. The order eliminates all weight restrictions on trucks carrying agricultural products so farmers can harvest and ship as much produce as possible before more damage is done.
But if any Florida corn, cucumbers or beans find their way onto grocery store shelves in coming weeks, prices will be higher.READ MORE: Dates For Formula 1 Grand Prix In Miami Gardens Confirmed For May 6-8, 2022
J.D. Poole, the vice president and sales manager of Pioneer Growers Cooperative in Belle Glade, said corn was selling at $8 a box at the beginning of December. Now it’s selling for $30 a box (there are 48 ears of corn in a box).
About 80 percent of the crop in western Palm Beach County — where most Florida sweet corn is grown — was destroyed during the first cold snap in December. Corn farmers farther south in Homestead are still trying to determine what, if any, damage was done to their young plants by this week’s weather.
“Obviously the supply has dwindled down to nothing,” Poole said. “Everybody’s cupboards are bare.”
It’s not just corn that has suffered. Florida’s agriculture department released a list of losses this week:
— The eggplant crop is down by 80 percent, with the total U.S. market down 8.5 percent — nearly all attributed to Florida’s losses.
— Shipments of bell peppers from Florida are down some 50 percent, while pepper shipments from the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Nicaragua are up.
— Green beans were heavily affected by the freeze — prices have skyrocketed from about $8.85 a bushel around Thanksgiving to about $35 now. Meanwhile, imports from Guatemala are up by 75 percent.
— Lettuces also took a hit. Endive and escarole harvests are down 40 percent, and Bergmann said about 6,000 acres of Romaine have “gone kaput.”MORE NEWS: Miami Beach Police Host Bone Marrow Registry Drive, Hope To Give Someone The 'Gift Of Life'
One bright spot: strawberries. The fruit on the vine survived, and farmers’ only worry is that coming weeks’ crops will be delayed because the cold weather slowed plants’ growth.