Assuming no further weather anomalies this spring, yields could exceed those of a year earlier, which could potentially push production of spring onions up by as much as one-third.

Spring growers entered an onion market that was already crowded with heavy imports from Mexico (expected to continue into early May) and the remaining domestic storage onions from the 2010 season.

As a result, spring onion prices, which are already weak, are expected to average well below the extreme highs experienced a year earlier.

After experiencing a winter that will not soon be forgotten, the fresh-market vegetable industry welcomed spring. Although domestic supplies are increasing, the supply of many crops from Mexico remains well below average following the unusually heavy February freeze.

However, the market share commanded by imports generally declines as spring progresses and more domestic sources begin to ship.

In mid-April, import volume from Mexico was running well below a year earlier for crops such as sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, bell peppers and tomatoes, while imports were above a year earlier for crops such as carrots, bulb onions, green onions, peas, chile peppers, squash and watermelons.

In Florida, despite hot, dry weather punctuated by periods of heavy rains and winds, spring crops appear to be largely on schedule with improved supplies in late March and early April set to expand to full normal volume for most crops in May.

Heavy rains in late March and excessive heat in early April may lead to some temporary market gaps from central Florida in early May due to the impact on plant blooms (drops or no set) for crops such as tomatoes and peppers. Aside from this issue, Florida’s volume is expected to exceed that of a year earlier. And with import volume remaining below average, domestic fresh vegetable supplies are expected to account for a greater share of the market this spring.

As unsettled early spring weather gives way to more summer-like conditions, vegetable crop yields are expected to improve and supplies will become steadier.

Although variable yields and seasonally declining imports could keep upward pressure on some vegetable markets through mid-May, U.S. spring-season grower/shipper prices for commercial fresh vegetables are expected to average well below the high levels experienced a year earlier.

Grower/shipper prices this spring are expected to average lower for crops such as onions, sweet corn, lettuce and cauliflower while averaging higher for carrots, cucumbers and celery.

phollis@farmpress.com