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As local deals cool, pepper market heats up

by Tim Linden | September 23, 2010
Cool weather around the country has led to an early end to some of the local colored bell pepper deals and is resulting in a strengthening of the market, which could remain hot for quite some time.

Mike Aiton, director of marketing for Prime Time Sales LLC, told The Produce News Sept. 22 that the market took a strong turn upward in the last week or so as these local deals saw their supplies dwindle.

"It's definitely been good for California," he said.

The Coachella, CA-based colored pepper specialist claims to be the largest grower and shipper of the product in the country. The firm markets peppers year round from a half-dozen different growing districts. During the summer months, local pepper deals throughout the country offer the greatest competition for year-round shippers.

Mr. Aiton said that his firm’s production recently shifted from California’s southern San Joaquin Valley to the coastal Oxnard area in Ventura County. Cool weather delayed the Oxnard deal a bit, which also led to the demand- exceeds-supply situation.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, the green Bell pepper market was very strong, hovering in the upper teens and approaching $20 for a standard 15-pound carton. The red Bell pepper market was also quite good, staying in the $12 to $14 range. Orange and yellow peppers, which typically bring a higher price, were also trading at or above $20 per carton.

“The supply outlook is pretty good for the next several weeks,” said Mr. Aiton, “but I think we will maintain the current market.”

If that’s the case, the market could remain strong throughout the rest of the fall and through the holiday season.

The Prime Time executive said that after the Oxnard fields are harvested, Prime Time will move back to its home base of Coachella for November and December as the Mexico crop gets ready for harvest. He said that typically the November to December time frame produces the lightest volume of colored peppers, so if the market is strong through most of October, supplies may not catch up with demand until January, when Mexico begins to ship in earnest.