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Harsh weather cuts pumpkin crop

rotted pumpkin
Decayed pumpkins herald the Halloween season this year  

October 25, 1999
Web posted at: 2:05 p.m. EDT (1805 GMT)

FLORIDA, New York (CNN) -- The combination of too much heat followed by too much rain delivered a one-two punch to the pumpkin patch this year. As a result, in some parts of the country, prices are up and selection is down this Halloween season.

In New York, the nation's second largest pumpkin producing state, farmer Mickey Shuback says 90 percent of his crop is a waste.

"On the whole farm we should have had 2,000 boxes of pumpkins," says Shuback, whose molding pumpkins lie rotting in a field in Florida, New York, about 40 miles northwest of New York City. Instead, "we probably shipped less than 200 boxes," he told CNN.

 VIDEO
U.S. farmers are experiencing heavy crop loss as a result of low rainfall and hurricane Floyd. CNN's Frank Buckley reports.
Windows Media 28K 80K
 

Summer drought followed by heavy rain -- some of it from Hurricane Floyd -- are to blame for the pumpkin woes in New York, New Jersey and other eastern states.

"If the drought didn't get them, then the hurricane did," says Pete Gregg, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Weather also was a factor in the poor pumpkin crop this season in the Midwest, including the top producing state -- Illinois.

More trick than treat?

New Jersey farmer Neil Robson has pumpkins to sell at his roadside stand in Wrightstown, in the central part of the state. But the selection, he says, is only half of what it should be.

Robson
Robson says the price of pumpkins is higher this year  

"It's certainly been one of the most difficult (seasons) we've ever experienced," Robson told CNN.

For consumers, it means searching for the perfect Halloween jack-o'-lantern pumpkin may take a little longer. And then, once you've found it, expect a trick with your treat. "You used to pay somewhere in the $6 to $8 dollar range," says Robson. "Now, you're going to be paying $8 to $12, roughly."

Farmers don't call it a shortage -- they expect enough pumpkins will go to market to meet demand. Even so, a large part of this year's harvest won't be picked, disappointing those growers who had hoped the orange orbs would help them scare up some Halloween green.

Correspondent Frank Buckley contributed to this report.




RELATED STORIES:
Summer drought brings dismal harvest
October 15, 1999
Crop insurance is little relief for drought-stricken farmers
August 17, 1999
Glickman makes $50 million available to financially strapped farmers
August 13, 1999

RELATED SITES:
New York State Department Of Agriculture And Markets
U.S. Department of Agriculture Homepage
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