AHPA has been in communication with several of its members and other companies actively involved in the saw palmetto berry harvest in Florida, who contributed to this report.
The harvest season began in early August in Florida and the total berry harvest for the season will not be known until the first week of October, but buyers in the market say they are already revising their expectations for the 2018 harvest volume.
Extensive rain this year interrupted the flowering period and resulted in widespread berry drop across the state. Into August and early September, harvesters found very low berry densities resulting in smaller harvest yields and much higher effort from the resulting need to harvest over larger areas.
The price of wet (fresh) berries has increased due to these factors. As the demand for immature, green berries was met early in the season, the price continued to escalate quickly based on short supply and in order to incentivize pickers to search further into more remote areas to meet volume requirements. As of the first week of September, the berry price was about three times higher than the 2017 average price.
Like other seasons, the market for ripe, color breaking berries has been impacted by the harvest of immature, greener berries early in the season. If these green berries are allowed to mature, they can yield up to four times the weight as when green.
Saw palmetto oil users can expect 2018 prices to be impacted by increasing costs of the raw materials. In the long term, the supply market is expected to normalize to more average volumes enabling the price to stabilize.
The 2018 crop is the first to be conducted after the introduction of a Florida State requirement of a harvest permit, which is intended to protect landowner rights for this wild harvested botanical. The new permit requirement has created additional work for pickers and there are opportunities to streamline the application process, but this has not impacted harvesters as much as the wet weather. It’s unknown how the market in 2019 will be affected by any new regulations that the Florida Department of Agriculture may impose.