Salinas volume lighter due to rain

Crops of spring vegetables and berries are emerging after the winter’s rainy and chilly conditions, and growers are expecting California’s Salinas Valley to explode with activity in the next weeks.


Coastline Family Farms in Salinas, Calif., is finishing up spring vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, lettuces and some herbs that winter in Brawley, Calif., said salesman Mark McBride. He anticipates harvesting on the Central Coast to start in the next 10 days.


“Overall, by the 15th (of April), we anticipate being 100% ready to rock here in Salinas,” he said. “It’s a very hectic time.”


Volumes, however, will probably be down slightly because the fields were planted before the rains started, he added, causing “pretty erratic conditions.”


“Head size and yield, possibly in lettuce, (we expect) to drop after the first couple of weeks,” McBride said, similar to what others will likely experience.


But “we anticipate having enough to take care of our contracts and best customers 100%. But we definitely do not anticipate having a lot of extra product over the next couple of weeks,” he said.


Broccoli and cauliflower harvesting are underway, McBride said, and will pick up speed beginning April 8. Cauliflower continues to have an elevated market, but he expects “a lot of more affordable prices from the market standpoint and better volume” down the line.


For Salad Savoy Corp., Salinas, rain put a five-day gap between December’s scheduled planting times and when crops actually got into the fields, said CEO Seth Karm. The company grows kale, chard and cauliflower in Yuma, Ariz., over the winter and in Soledad, Calif., in the spring.


But the rain also benefits crops, he added. “Rain this year definitely has been pumping the soil full of nitrogen, so things are growing better than expected,” Karm said.

“We’re seeing some warmer weather, so if we get an errant blast of 90-degree weather, it’s going to really put us into high gear up here.” Most popular with customers so far this year are Salad Savoy’s Tuscan kale and its orange, purple and green cauliflower.


“We’ve been moving the heck out of that cauliflower to date,” Karm said. “It’s springtime — everyone’s looking for color. We generally see a nice bump from March to May every year.”

Small-scale organic vegetable and strawberry grower Hall’s Organic Farms, which grows on 13 acres in Salinas, is harvesting rainbow, purple and orange carrots, gold and red beets, cilantro, parsley, rainbow chard, kale, radishes and strawberries, said owner Stevie Hall.


The company began planting in mid-January and February. “It’s coming on a little bit better; we’ve had a nice amount of rain, but not all at once,” Hall said. “The strawberries are looking really good, as there’s been lots of rain early.” Hall expects to have strawberries through to November, he said.


Salinas-based Naturipe Berry Growers continues to grow primarily strawberries on 1,300 acres in Salinas, as well as elsewhere in the state and in Mexico, said Craig Moriyama, director of berry operations.


While an additional 100 acres are set aside for organic strawberries, most production is conventional. March was a bust month for harvesting, he said, because of the rain. But now that it’s slowed, activity is back on course this month. “The early deal was rained out,” Moriyama said.


“Now we’re on schedule. We already started up a week ago (March 29), and it’s just going to ramp up through Mother’s Day, and then we’ll have a good summer deal.”
Quantities will probably not quite match last year, he added, when numerous days of low temperatures energized the plants and caused high production across several strawberry districts all at once, causing excessive supplies.


Production will be closer this season to typical production, Moriyama said, which is 8,000 to 10,000 trays an acre. The company expects plentiful supplies going forward.


“It’s going to be good opportunity for spring through summer for strawberries,” he said. “If retailers can do that, then the crop will move successfully.”


Brassicas grown in Yuma, Az., for Salinas-based Mann Packing Co., now owned by Coral Gables, Fla.-based Fresh Del Monte Produce, are rebounding after the winter’s atypical rain volume, said Loree Dowse, director of creative marketing. The lettuces are smaller than usual, she added.


However, all other produce is “looking good,” Dowse said. Mann packs a wide range of vegetables including broccoli, Broccolini, sugar snap peas, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts.


by The Packer

San Joaquin Valley cherry farmers expect record harvest

If the weather continues to cooperate until harvest, next month, it could be a record year for San Joaquin Valley Cherry Farmers. However, farmers are concerned there may not be enough labor to get the cherries off the trees when harvest time does come around.


For cherry farmers like Jeff Ferrari, all eyes are on the weather after two seasons of unfavorable conditions. The trees are healthy, producing an unusual amount of fruit on the branches. With three more weeks to go until harvest, farmers are concerned there may not be enough workers to pick the fruit.


It’s ironic, they say because pickers stand to make quite a bit of cash when there is this much fruit. Ferrari said they’re looking at maybe double minimum wage. For now, farmers say it’s still early and they remain optimistic. “I’ve talked with people and they’re confident it will be attractive for pickers to make money,” Ferrari said.


According to, growers expect to harvest 60% of the total crop in May and the rest in the first two weeks of June.


by Fresh Plaza

Almost time for South African citrus exports to resume

The South African citrus season is just around the corner and Summer Citrus from South Africa is preparing for the first shipments which are due to begin at the end of May. South African fruit is likely to become available in the US from early to mid-June. In terms of citrus varieties, easy peelers will be the first available, followed closely by Navel oranges.


“Summer Citrus from South Africa will be arriving in early to mid-June, perfect timing as the domestic season comes to a close,” noted Suhanra Conradie, CEO of Summer Citrus from South Africa. Easy peelers will be available end of May and early June. Navels will follow starting towards the end of June and we anticipate healthy supply through the end of the season. Cara Cara oranges, while in short supply, will be available throughout the summer months. Star Ruby is a later summer fruit and should start to arrive by the end of June and will last through the end of September.”



More focus on marketing efforts this year
This year’s focus will be to fuel greater demand for citrus during the summer months. Summer Citrus from South Africa said it is currently looking to retailers and work with them to help promote South African citrus. Conradie also noted that there will be good promotable volumes.


“Summer Citrus from South Africa, including Navels to easy-peelers, will be broadly available and can be procured from any one of our valued importers,” she said. “Our Association’s importers are ready to work with retailers on stronger marketing activations to help elevate demand and sales for South African fruit throughout the season.”


Celebrating 20 years at Viva Fresh
This year, Summer Citrus from South Africa is celebrating 20 years of providing fresh citrus to the U.S. market. The celebrations will be a focal point at this week’s Viva Fresh Expo in San Antonio. A champagne toast will be held at the company’s booth to mark the occasion.



“Showing and expressing our gratitude to 20 years of successful collaboration and support of the fresh produce industry is our main objective in attending and supporting Viva Fresh,” Conradie shared. “We are happy to sponsor Friday’s Keynote Luncheon and invite everyone to our booth on Saturday at 2:30 pm at the Expo prior to happy hour for a champagne toast.”


She added that the show is also an excellent opportunity to connect with attendees and discuss the upcoming South African citrus program. “Viva Fresh provides the industry with a great opportunity to network and discuss the busy summer sales season in culture-rich San Antonio while coming together under one roof during the conference and expo. The show provides our association and our importers with an excellent place to show our support for the industry and meet face to face with our customers.”


by Fresh Plaza

Strawberry volume in Santa Maria increasing as Oxnard declines

California strawberry production continues its northerly track as Oxnard begins to see a decline in volume. At the same time, fields in Santa Maria are coming online with overall production increasing day by day. This means that California strawberry supplies are set to remain steady. However, suppliers say that fruit quality is declining out of Oxnard as the last of the season’s fruit is harvested.


“After several weeks of strong production in Oxnard, California, overall pack-outs will begin to fall sharply now through the end of the month,” noted Ira Greenstein of Direct Source Marketing. “Quality and condition has begun to decline with only about half of the fruit being packed able to meet retail specifications. With Oxnard production decreasing and Santa Maria rising, we expect to see overall pack-outs remain fairly level, hovering between 1.1-1.3 million flats per day.”


Meanwhile Santa Maria also had some recent weather issues that put a strain on fruit quality, but that has since been resolved. “About 10 days ago, Santa Maria saw a spike in temperatures and heavy winds that caused significant bruising,” Greenstein explained. “Growers and shippers have completed cleaning and stripping the fields and expectations are for excellent quality fruit to start the week.”


Freezer market looking appealing for Oxnard shippers
Looking ahead, the market is expected to remain steady at this stage, as volume and demand seem well-balanced. Suppliers suggest that the fruit quality issues in Oxnard are providing an incentive to shippers to send their fruit to processers rather than distribute to the fresh market, especially to the East Coast.


“Although there will still be shipments coming from Oxnard this week, retailers will look to transition to northern supplies quickly,” Greenstein said. “Currently, freezer pricing is fairly good, which could entice many Oxnard growers to go for the safe option instead of sending questionable quality fruit across the country.”


As the month progresses, Watsonville is slowly starting up which will see fresh new crop strawberries enter the market just as Oxnard completely finishes. Prices are looking steady with the only factor being whether or not Oxnard growers do indeed send their fruit to the freezer market.


“Watsonville fields are just now starting to produce, but it could be another two to three weeks before we see any meaningful volume from the region,” Greenstein observed. “Expectations are to see pricing ranging from consignment-$8 on Oxnard fruit and $8-$10 on Santa Maria and Watsonville supplies. Overall pricing could adjust lower if growers in Oxnard choose not to send fruit to the freezer and flood the market with weaker fruit.”


by Fresh Plaza

California LGMA approves stricter water treatment rules

Members of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement have adopted new rules requiring them to sanitize “open source” used water for overhead irrigation following recent E. coli outbreaks that led investigators to suspect water as a cause.

The new rules, which passed in an April 19 vote, cover 99% of the leafy greens grown in California, according the California LGMA.

The LGMA will be scheduling workshops and seminars for growers and buyers to educate them on the changes, according to a blog post on the group’s website.

Through the new rules, growers will consider the source of water and how it’s delivered to crops. The focus is open source water, which includes groundwater and water from irrigation canals and reservoirs. Two recent E. coli outbreaks traced to romaine (a third was linked to “leafy greens) focused on open source water.

Following a spring 2018 outbreak, investigators found the same E. coli strain in irrigation canal water that passed by a large cattle feedlot on its way to Yuma, Ariz., fields. After a November 2018 outbreak, investigators found E. coli in sediment in an irrigation reservoir on a Santa Barbara County, Calif., farm.

The new steps in the California LGMA requires growers to:

– Review their water system, sources and storage (canal/reservoir/well/municipal supply) and irrigation method (furrow/sprinkler/drip);

– Conduct water testing — prepare a baseline assessment, check and test water system, and routinely monitor sources and systems; and

– Treat water if necessary — Surface water for overhead irrigation 21 days before harvest must be sanitized.

– The 21-day rule stems from studies showing it is a conservative time period to allow bacteria on crops to die, according to the California LGMA.

The leafy greens group, in collaboration with Western Growers, has worked with industry, growers and the academic community to establish more stringent requirements for water use, according to the LGMA’s blog.

“We are very aware of the tragic impacts a foodborne illness can have on consumers, our customers and our entire industry,” according to the blog. “We are all passionately committed to producing the safest leafy greens possible.  The LGMA will continue to make changes to as needed to strengthen the food safety requirements for leafy greens.”

by Chris Koger

Rollercoaster ride expected for cauliflower

Cauliflower supplies coming from California are moderate right now.


“The supplies are coming from Santa Maria and the Salinas districts,” says Bob R. Cordova of The VegBoss LLC in Orcutt, Ca. He adds that overall, cauliflower supplies are lower this year. “We all anticipated some pretty severe gaps and I think we have them in front of us,” says Cordova. “We went six to 10 days … on a few occasions, we just couldn’t get plants in the ground.”


He also adds that less cauliflower was planted in the desert region and that the colder winter temperatures slowed the cauliflower growth down. This, in part, led to the market spike seen a few months back. “[Cauliflower was at] $40 FOB a few months ago. It was pretty incredible,” says Cordova.


California’s cauliflower scene 
California dominates the cauliflower market right now given that Mexico brings in only a little bit of the vegetable and is inconsistent with its supplies; and it’s too early for other regions, such as Florida, Maine or Montreal, to be producing.


Meanwhile, overall demand continues to grow for cauliflower. “[Demand has been] on the rise … the past five years and very strong in the past two years because of things like cauliflower rice, crumbles, crusts,” says Cordova. “It’s finding its way into a lot of uses and I think it’s only going to increase.”


Looking ahead, Cordova predicts a “rollercoaster ride” for cauliflower. “What we’re harvesting this week probably wasn’t supposed to come off until next week. You get a little bit of a cold spell that slows things down and then a gap,” he says. “We anticipated some extreme peaks and valleys and we haven’t seen them all yet. I think a few are ahead of us all the way into June. We just have to see if the weather closes [the gaps] or not.”


By Fresh Plaza


The Peruvian mango season is almost over and the European market is switching to African imports. The first mangoes from South Africa and Cote d’Ivoire are already on the market. While the Italian acreage continues to expand, growth in Spain is being curbed by the bad campaign in 2018. Business is going well in the US. More Mexican mangoes arrive every week and the demand is so high that the fruit can be sold immediately. Australian traders are happy with the results achieved this past season, with a large harvest and high demand.


Germany: South Africa replaces Peru
The German wholesale market is currently in a transitional phase. Peru is slowly disappearing while South Africa takes over the market. “There’s a particularly low supply of the smaller sizes,” says a trader. Since these are the most popular ones, there has naturally been an impact on prices. The ready-to-eat mangoes shipped by air freight currently cost between 39 and 45 Euro per 6 kg package, while the average price is normally around 30 Euro.


Both Peru and South Africa market basically the same varieties (mainly Kent). Peru dominates in terms of quality, especially when it comes to the mangoes shipped by air. South Africa, for its part, is better known for its mangoes shipped by sea. These reach prices of between 7 and 10 Euro per box. In general, Peru is more popular with German wholesalers and the demand is expected to fall rapidly after the Easter holidays. At that time, the growing supply of stone fruit normally happens at the expense of the demand for exotic species.


The Netherlands: Good start for African mangoes after smooth end of Peru
Dutch importers kicked off the African mango season with the arrival of the first mangoes from Cote d’Ivoire. The season kicks off with the green Amelie mango, followed by the Kent variety. The former is expected on the market at the end of week 17. The conditions in the mango market are very good compared to last year, as Peru is almost completely off the market. The quality of the current Kent leaves something to be desired. Traditionally, the Ivorian mango season lasts for five to six weeks, after which other West African countries take over.


Belgium: Record high prices
The latest batches of tree-ripened, air-shipped mangoes of the Dolce variety have arrived from Peru and prices have reached record high levels. Prices are also very high for tree-ripened Kent mangoes from Peru. Within the next ten days, the Peruvian shipments by air will stop. After this, the market makes the switch to Kent mangoes from Cote d’Ivoire. Ready-to-eat mangoes are hard to find on the market and are currently being sold at high prices. The demand for ready-to-eat Santana mangoes is high, but the quantities supplied are far too small to meet the demand.


Italy: Consumption and production are increasing
While the demand for mangoes still stood at 4,800 tons in 2012, in 2016 it increased to 9,000 tonnes. The demand is particularly high in the second half of the year, with a peak in December. More and more mangoes are being grown in Sicily. The most popular varieties here are the Kensington Pride, Kent, Maya, Glenn and Keitt. The Sicilian growers are doing good business. “The demand exceeds the supply,” one of them says. “Since our mangoes don’t need long to reach the Italian and European markets, their quality is hardly affected by the time they reach the consumer.” The good results are encouraging an expansion of the acreage. The demand for ready-to-eat mangoes is also on the rise, and Sicilian growers are trying to meet it.


France: Nice weather reduces the demand
France is also receiving the last mango shipments from Peru. A trader tells us that there are many quality problems. Large sizes are traded for € 6.50 – € 7.00 per box. The smaller sizes are sold for around € 7.50 per box. “The volume of air-shipped mangoes has been reduced over the past week,” says the trader. “This has caused prices to reach very high levels.” The air-shipped mangoes are of average quality. The trader stresses that this is not an easy period for the mango market. “The nice weather is almost there, so consumers are becoming more attracted by strawberries and raspberries.” The first shipment of Ivorian mangoes arriving by air and sea will hit the market next week. This year, Cote d’Ivore’s harvest is 20-30% lower than last year, as a lot of fruit fell early from the trees due to the impact of heavy rainfall.


Spain: Growers have had a bad season
The Spanish mango season came to a close in November. The total harvest amounted to 34,000 tons, 30% more than in 2017. A trader says that it has been a difficult season. “The European market was unable to absorb the many Spanish mangoes. There was a surplus of small sizes and there were just as many Brazilian mangoes on the market as in previous years. At the same time, there were a lot of apples, pears, grapes and summer fruits on the market. ”Heavy rainfall during the harvest period took a toll on the quality. As a result, prices fell considerably. Due to the poor results of the past season, the expansion of the acreage has slowed down. The Spanish mango season only lasts a short time, and it is not easy to sell the large harvest within such a short period.


At the moment, Spanish traders are importing mainly Brazilian mangoes of the Palmer variety. Now that the Peruvian season is ending, the prices are high. Not very many mangoes are imported.


US: Mexican volumes are increasing
As Mexican cultivation shifts from one area to another, the volumes are increasing every week. “We started in mid-January with three to five loads a week, and this number increased in early February,” says a Texas trader. “We now have about six to seven loads coming in every day, and this figure is expected to increase even more in the coming week.” At the moment, Mexico is mostly supplying smaller sizes. For the larger sizes, the volumes are smaller.


The increase in the supply is accompanied by a growing demand. “As the weather improves, the demand also grows,” says the trader. “We are able to sell everything we get almost immediately. We accumulate no stocks. Supermarkets in particular continue to demand more. ”The prices for larger sizes amount to around $ 8- $ 9 / FOB. The smaller sizes are sold for $ 5- $ 6. When the season started in January, the price for the large sizes was still $ 12.


Australia: Large harvest sold well
The Australian mango season ended in March. The production reached 10 million trays, making it the second largest harvest ever. The Australian Mango Industry Association (AMIA) reports that the quality was exceptionally good. Taste tests yielded good results for all varieties in all growing areas. The weather conditions did create some challenges. Some growers harvested fewer mangoes than expected, which made their season shorter. The Honey Gold, Calypso and R2E2 varieties are very popular in the market. According to the AMIA, the growth achieved in recent years has mainly been recorded by these three varieties, but traditional varieties, such as the Kensington Pride, are also doing well. The supply and the demand are increasing proportionally for all varieties.


It has also been a good year for exports. The AMIA is committed to opening up new markets. Marketing campaigns were organized in partnership with exporters, importers and retailers in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, New Zealand and the US. A research program took place in the Middle East.


China: High demand and limited supply
The mango season is in full swing in China. The main production areas in China are Hainan, Guangxi, Yunnan, Sichuan and Taiwan. Next month, the mangoes from Taiwan will hit the market. There is currently a strong demand and a limited supply, so prices are high. Mangoes are also imported from other countries, such as Cambodia, Vietnam and India.


By FreshPlaza

Santa Maria expects big strawberry crop

Strawberry growers in the Golden State, including in its No. 2 growing region of Santa Maria, have been producing greater volumes with higher-yield varieties, and this year could be a banner year.


“With normal weather, weekly shipment volume from April 15 to Oct. 31 is likely to equal or exceed the three-year average,” the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission said on its website. Strawberry volumes reached record numbers for the past three years in total, according to the commission, and increased 6%.



It’s the result of a trend in which growers are growing more but with less acreage, according to the commission, by increasing acres of higher-yielding varieties. The commission said acreage statewide is down 12% in the three-year time frame.


“(Planting higher-yielding volumes) helps to preserve resources; you don’t need as much land, and you don’t need as much water,“ said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director for the commission.



“You can consolidate all your operations onto a smaller footprint.” While the cost of land is always a concern, O’Donnell said labor costs are the majority of a strawberry grower’s operation, and can also be a motivator to plant for greater volume.


“If you’ve got higher-yield varieties, there’s more fruit to pick, and generally the workforce that’s doing the harvesting likes to work in fields where plants are healthy and there’s an abundance of fruit to pick,” she said.


Two of the three top-yielding varieties in production yield studies conducted in Watsonville by the University of California, Davis, include the monterey variety, producing 10,554 cartons per acre, and the san andreas variety, which yielded 10,414 cartons per acre. O’Donnell said the commission has noticed those varieties as well as some proprietary ones from growers.


“We’re seeing more fruit per acre from when these fruits are planted,” she said. A newer variety, the cabrillo, was reported as producing 11,605 cartons per acre in recent tests. Those higher-producing varieties can work against the industry under certain conditions.


Last year, freezing weather in February delayed fruit harvests until California’s three strawberry districts came online with fruit, including those high-yield varieties, close in time with each other. That was around May 11, when production hit nearly 10 million trays and exceeded the three-year average of just over 8 million trays.


Annual production jumped 9% to nearly 225 million trays, but the f.o.b. price per tray was only $9.10, the lowest since 2006, according to the commission, which uses U.S. Department of Agriculture data.


“Strawberries supplies are very price sensitive — so when you have a very high supply, it pushes the price down,” O’Donnell said.


This year, she said weather has put statewide production behind last year at this time, and growers expect some losses. As of March 23, harvests were at about 7.2 million trays — significantly behind the nearly 11.9 million trays harvested at the same time last year.


In Santa Maria, about 637,000 crates of berries have been produced compared to more than 2.4 million crates a year ago. Timing, however, is on track with normal years, she said.


Santa Maria

In 2018, Santa Maria’s strawberries accounted for more than 33% of the state’s total production — about 70.4 million crates, according to the commission.


Last fall, growers planted 8,583 acres for the current winter, spring and summer season, down from 11,744 acres in 2018.


Tom Jones, president of Providence Farms in Santa Maria, a mostly organic strawberry producer on 260 acres, which grows and ships through California Giant Berry Farms, said the strawberry volume on its way could be an issue this year, but it depends on fruit amounts and timing.


“When we all come together at the same time like last year, that will be a challenge,” Jones said. Yields have increased for Providence Farms, he said, as the UC Davis program has emphasized developing higher producing varieties.


“When I started in this business 35 years ago, if you had around 6,000 trays an acre, you were doing really good,” Jones said.  “Now, you’d better be up around 8,500/9,000 trays an acre. And these varieties are definitely doing that.”


By Carol Lawrence

Weather is about the only thing holding berries back

No matter the region or type of berry—strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, or blackberry—industry players are thrilled with high demand but face a few common challenges. Some are shared with growers of other commodities, and a few are unique to the berry sector.

Weather, of course, is always a challenge. Jack Cain, vice president of sales and marketing for Always Fresh Farms in Winter Haven, FL, keeps his eyes on forecasts in a variety of places, from Chile to California to Florida. The company is a year-round supplier of blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries.

“You can have the best genetics, but you’re always going to have weather—if it’s too hot or too cold, it can affect the plant positively or negatively,” said Cain, citing recent examples like hail in Chile, colder than normal temperatures in California, and extremely warm weather in Florida.

If weather is too warm, strawberries will grow more leaves than fruit, and if temperatures fall, there are a host of adverse impacts, including pollination.

“We’ve had pollination problems,” Cain said. “Bees are affected by cold weather, and there’s a declining population of bees.”

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal.

by Produce Blueprints

U.S. citrus production set to rebound in 2018/19

U.S. citrus production in the 2018/19 marketing year (October–September) is rebounding from previous-year lows. The current citrus crop forecast of 8.02 million tons for 2018/19 is up 31 percent from the previous season, reflecting expected expanded national production across all major citrus commodities, excluding lemons, and overall larger crops in the four major producing States. The rebound is expected to be greatest in Florida, recovering from crop losses caused by Hurricane Irma in the 2017/18 season.


Orange and grapefruit crops are anticipated to have the largest year-over-year growth in national output, with increases of 42 percent and 24 percent, respectively. However, only orange production is projected higher than the earlier 2016/17 season, suggesting a continued long-term decline in other citrus varieties. Total citrus production still lags behind the levels reached in the early 2010s, when it exceeded 11 million tons. If the 2018/19 citrus production forecast is realized, it would be the first year since 2010/11 that production hasn’t declined. Expected increased 2018/19 supplies are lowering fresh citrus prices in the domestic market. This chart appears in the ERS Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook newsletter, released on March 29, 2019.



by Fresh Plaza

California cherry growers look to bounce back from 2018

California cherry grower-shippers say they’re expecting bigger volumes in 2019 than a year earlier.


That shouldn’t be difficult, they were quick to add.


In 2018, cherry volume statewide was 3.96 million cartons, compared to 9.56 million cartons a year earlier, according to the Sacramento-based California Cherry Board.


Weather was a factor in the downturn, suppliers said.


“Last year was a disaster,” said Kyle Persky, sales manager with Lodi, Calif.-based Rivermaid Trading Co. “We’d had a stressful summer of ’17, and it stressed the trees in a hot summer.”


There also was a freeze early in 2018 that hit the trees “just as buds were beginning to swell,” he said.
The 2019 crop appears more promising, thanks to “more temperate” conditions, Persky said.


“We’ve had a gorgeous bloom over the last 10 days or so – a little later than the last couple of years, but when it did bloom, it popped,” he said.


Growing conditions leading to the 2019 crop improved considerably over a year ago, said Jim Hanson, managing director of Stockton, Calif.-based Grower Direct Marketing LLC.


“Coming through the winter, we had good chill hours, and we’ve had plenty of moisture,” he said. “Everything looks real good, at this point.”


Bloom was progressing south to north as March waned, Hanson said.


“We’re about a week later in our timing, compared to last year, and last year, we were a week late,” he said.


That delay may have aided this year’s crop, he said, noting that a freeze not unlike last year’s costly chill swept through the growing region in February,


“This year, we had the same type of freeze, but the buds were tighter,” he said.


“If you look at California cherries, normally you’ll have them on the market April 17-19; this year, it will be


April 30, just to get started.”Hanson described this year’s deal as a “May-June crop.”


“The bing crop, I don’t see starting in the Stockton-Linden and Lodi areas until May 1,” he said.


Growers expect to harvest 60% of the total crop in May and the rest in the first two weeks of June, Hanson said.


This year’s California cherry harvest could rival 2017’s take, said Mike Jameson, director of sales and marketing with Stockton, Calif.-based Morada Produce.


“All indicators are it’s going to be good, comparable to maybe two years ago — good chills, good moisture and a lot of buds on the tree,” he said.


Cool conditions likely will hold back the first harvest until around May 1, Jameson said. Brianna Shales, communications manager for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers LLC, agreed.


“It’s been a slow start to spring in California with cool/moist conditions that have now turned to the normal dry/warm,” she said.


“Timing wise, we are expecting a nice spread between growing districts in California and a slow ramp up that will begin in May,” she said.


“Last year’s crop was great quality, but challenged from a volume standpoint. We still have quite a bit of time to go before harvest, but the industry is setting up to have good supplies from May 20 to mid-June.”


Francisco Ilic, export manager at Dinuba, Calif.-based King Fresh Produce LLC, voiced optimism about the upcoming deal.


“At this moment, the cherry crop seems to have plenty of potential to be large, if not very large, in volume,” he said.


“The winter seemed to have brought enough chilling hours for early varieties grown at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley — varieties such as royal tioga, brooks, tulare and coral. However, lingering rainy and colder-than-normal weather is pushing most varieties to start the harvest about a week to 10 days later than normal.”


Bing cherries in the northern region looked “very good,” Ilic said.


“However, not exactly knowing what the weather will be for the next 60 or so days, will always make it a difficult thing to predict a cherry crop,” he said.


Rich Sambado, sales manager at Linden, Calif.-based Primavera Marketing, voiced optimism about the crop.


“As far as potential cropload, the industry will not have much of a feel until early April. At this point, there is concern about crop set, but all the while there is optimism in the air,” he said.


by Jim Offner


These are exciting times on the tomato market. Many countries are currently in the transition period between the import and export seasons. In the meantime, the spread of the ToBRFV virus is being monitored worldwide. Various cases have already been reported in Europe and it is still unclear whether eradication of the virus is possible. The US Department of Commerce has announced a withdrawal from the Tomato Suspension Agreement. This could have major financial consequences for Mexican tomato growers.


The Netherlands: Fear of ToBRFV
In the Netherlands, the traditional greenhouse vegetable season has started well. Crops grown under lighting and organic ones are expanding, putting prices under pressure. This applies in particular to on the vine tomatoes. These tomatoes were already in a difficult situation anyway last winter. The prices for the crops grown under lighting were “dramatically poor” in February, and it was important to get the winter production out of the way before the crops grown without lighting came on the market.


For their part, growers of organic on the vine tomatoes hope that after two difficult years, this time they will have one with better prices. When it comes to good prices, growers of beef tomatoes take the cake. They are currently doing reasonably well, with good prices due to a high demand.


The biggest concern for the growers, in addition to prices, is the ToBRFV virus. The virus was detected in German greenhouses at the end of last year, after previously having been found in Israel, California and Mexico. An infection in Italy has also since been reported. The ToBRFV is a relatively new virus and is closely related to the TMV and ToMV. These types of viruses are very persistent, which is also why growers are struggling with it. In Israel, where the virus has been around for some time, growers are switching to shorter tomato crops. This way, they can limit the consequences before they become too great.


The virus, which, according to the growers there, ended up in Israeli horticulture through Dutch seeds, has been spread further through soil machines. Israeli growers told us that because the soil in which cultivation takes place ensures continuous recontamination, they’ll have to wait for resistant varieties.


The direct impact on the market there seems to be limited. The acreage has been expanded in recent years, so the total yield has not been affected. Despite this, the prices in Israel are above average this season.


Regular meetings are held in Mexico and Italy to promote the importance of hygiene in the cultivation process. “Prevention is the best defense” is the motto, and everything is put in place to make the sector act accordingly.


The virus has also been found in the Netherlands, but otherwise there is still a great deal of uncertainty. Officially, the authorities have not confirmed any ToBRFV detections, although no official statement is necessary, because it has no quarantine status. Information on hygiene protocols has still been spread, also among pepper growers, for whom the virus is also a threat. Meanwhile, the NVWA doesn’t know whether eradication of the virus is possible, because it is a virus that spreads easily through contact. Growers can currently only hope that they do not get infected and must try to protect themselves as efficiently as possible.


Dutch importers say that the Canary tomato season has been satisfactory. The Canary season had a good start in November. The Dutch season had finished earlier and there were few import tomatoes on the market. Things went reasonably well in December, January was acceptable, February was tougher and in March things went reasonably well again. Reasonable prices are certainly expected until Easter.



Germany: Moroccan season ended; own harvest starting slowly
“The demand for large sizes was very high this year, unlike the supply. This eventually became a problem for us,” says a trader from the Hamburg region. “In general, the market tends to prefer smaller sizes. This is especially noticeable in the retail. At the moment, however, the demand from the hotel and catering industry is also increasing, as the right sizes for this segment are scarcely available. “With regard to the varieties, the demand is highly dependent on the type of customer.” Larger varieties are mainly purchased by catering suppliers, while smaller tomatoes are hardly sold there and end up in smaller supermarkets, or directly in the retail.”


Given that the Moroccan tomato season is also slowly coming to an end, prices are rising across the board. “We were unable to foresee this; otherwise, we would have stored more goods.” In the German trade, Moroccan vegetables are increasingly seen as a cheap alternative to Spanish products. “The days when the Moroccan product left much to be desired in terms of quality are now far behind us,” said the trader. As soon as Morocco ends, the tomatoes are imported from Spain or the Netherlands. “We have also received offers from Egypt,” confirms the importer. Larger volumes of German tomatoes are also expected within a few weeks. These will also be traded from the Hamburg region by then.


Belgium: Light pressure on prices
In Belgium, there are no known cases of companies infected with the ToBRFV virus. Precautions are being taken, but the virus is not yet perceived as a major threat. The tomato acreage is still expanding. A lot is invested in LED cultivation. Tomatoes have done reasonably well in recent times, but there is a slight pressure on prices because there is still Moroccan product on the market and large productions are on the way.


France: Growers enter the specialty segment
French growers are at the start of the season. The prices are slightly lower than last year’s, but are still satisfactory, according to a trader. The yield obtained from the harvest varies greatly per company. The prospect is that more and more specialty products will enter the French market. After last year’s bad prices for on the vine tomatoes, many growers are now entering this segment. The demand for these varieties is high. According to a grower, every person in France knows at least one specialty nowadays. Another important trend on the French tomato market is the demand for pesticide-free tomatoes. The poor reputation of greenhouse tomatoes in terms of taste remains a challenge for the growers.


The season for Moroccan import tomatoes is coming to an end. The plants are no longer producing large fruits, so there are many small sizes on the market. The prices oscillate between € 0.50 and € 0.70 per kilo.


Spain: Growers switching to other products
The Spanish export season will end in three or four weeks, as many European retailers will then switch to Dutch tomatoes. Spain currently has smaller volumes than at this same time last year. This is a result of growers planting fewer spring tomatoes in recent years due to problems with the Tuta Absoluta virus. Many growers are also switching to watermelon cultivation. There is a shortage of medium and large tomatoes and an abundance of small sizes (especially M and MM). Consequently, many Spanish retailers import beef tomatoes from the Netherlands.


In general, the volumes have been somewhat smaller this year. The prices for the Marmande and Raf tomatoes have been good, and those for the plum and on the vine tomatoes have not been bad either. However, the market conditions for loose tomatoes have not been that good. This time, Spanish exporters were not affected by Turkish competition, but Morocco is exporting increasingly higher volumes of loose tomatoes to Spain and other European destinations.


Spanish growers appear to be planting fewer tomatoes every year. They are switching to products such as bell peppers, zucchini or watermelons. According to one exporter, the most important reason is the increasing competition from Morocco. From January this year, the rise in the minimum wage entailed a 20-25% increase in the production costs. This makes it more difficult to make a profit from tomatoes.


Italy: Stable balance between supply and demand
With more than 114,000 tons, the Netherlands is the most important tomato supplier for Italy. Most Italian tomatoes are exported to Germany (61,000 tons in 2018). In 2017, the acreage devoted to tomatoes intended for fresh consumption stood at 25,000 hectares (greenhouse and open ground combined). More than 70% of that acreage is in the open ground. The yield amounts to more than 1 million tons. 45% of all Italian tomatoes are grown in Sicily.


An industry expert says that “the import of Moroccan tomatoes is a problem in the winter, because they drive our prices down. At the same time, more and more innovative greenhouses are being built in northern Italy, Germany and Eastern European countries. This means that fewer exports will be possible in the coming years, because consumers often prefer a local product.”


“The balance between supply and demand has remained fairly stable in recent weeks. Prices are around average, although this varies per product. There is already oversupply in the foreign market. In the Netherlands, for example, prices are under considerable pressure,” says the tomato expert.


“In order to promote the sector, companies need to focus more on quality. With the help of innovative crop protection techniques that bring pesticide residues down to a minimum, growers can deliver healthy products. To meet the demand from supermarkets, the sector must also focus on delivering products that have both a good taste and a good shelf life.”


A new trend in the market is the focus on specialties. The expert explains that the demand for them is on the rise, at least in Europe. Official figures show that tomato consumption is falling somewhat in terms of volume, but how this will further develop will depend on the demand for plum, cherry and colored tomatoes. “This segment is likely to continue to grow in the medium and long term. The prospects for medium products of a certain quality are also good.”


As revealed in the international conference of the Tomato Contact Group, there are increasing concerns about viruses. “In Sicily, growers are keeping a close eye on how and whether the ToBRFV virus is spreading. Some companies are enforcing stricter rules to protect the greenhouses from potential infections. There are major concerns in Central and Northern Europe, where the virus has already emerged (probably both in the Netherlands and in Germany). This is especially true for greenhouse tomatoes grown under lighting, where the damage appears to be huge. In the Mediterranean, it is easier to reduce the risks by resorting to short cultivation cycles. This has already yielded results in Israel, where an average of two to three short cycles are carried out.”


South Africa: Small volumes ensure high prices
The tomato season has been very difficult. The supply in the last six weeks has been about 40% lower than at this same time last year, says a trader. Due to the weather conditions, the season came to a close earlier in some growing areas, while it started later in others.


In the north of the country, the weather is currently dry. This has brought the production volumes down. In the central provinces, it rained during the harvest period and some plantations were hit by hail. The production from the Northeast and the West coast is starting to arrive and the market should be better supplied by the end of April.


Prices are high, R15 (0.95 euros) – R18 (1.14 euros) per kilogram in the north of the country, slightly lower in the Cape where volumes are better.


In the North, a number of important growing companies have been affected by disease, giving growers from the Cape the opportunity to sell larger volumes than usual in the North. Supermarkets have had to make an effort to find alternative suppliers.


Australia: Large increase in exports
Australia has a stable production year-round for most varieties. Traditionally, tomatoes in the northern states are grown in the open ground , but in recent years, there has been a growing trend towards greenhouse cultivation. For the season that ended in 2018, Hort Innovation statistics show that 484,073 tons were harvested in Australia. This is an increase of 14%. At the same time, the value decreased by 5%, down to $ 609.9 million. Exports increased by 52% compared to the previous year and reached 804 tonnes. The value increased by 20% and amounted to $ 3 million. New Zealand was the main destination for Australian tomatoes. Meanwhile, a total of 926 tons were exported to Australia. Field-grown tomatoes had the largest market share (42%), followed by Truss (33%), cherry and grape tomatoes (22%) and Roma tomatoes (3%).


New Zealand: Growers on the alert for ToBRFV
Statistics NZ reports that the retail price of tomatoes in March 2019 increased to an average of NZ $ 5.20 per kilo. This is 44% higher than in February. The sector’s total value is $ 131 million per year, including $ 12.24 million worth of exports. Australia and Japan are the most important destinations. According to TomatoesNZ, there are no known cases of the ToBRFV virus in Australia and New Zealand, although the sector is keeping a close eye on the situation. The virus is considered a new threat that is spreading rapidly across the various continents. New Zealand growers are requested to report any unknown plant symptoms to the MPI exotic pest and disease hotline (0800 80 99 66).


US: Sector is anxiously awaiting May 7
North America is switching from winter cultivation to spring cultivation. The supply looks promising. “In South Florida, open ground tomatoes are still available. The harvest of spring tomatoes is starting sometime in the next ten days. This season is only short and runs until June,” says a trader. At the same time, regions such as Nogalez, Arizona, are at the end of the campaign. The Mexican production continues. “The supply from Mexico is good, but not overwhelming. There are limited volumes of Roma and round tomatoes,” says the trader.


The Mexican greenhouse tomato season will probably last until mid-May at the latest. Meanwhile, the domestic cultivation is growing. “The harvest continues all year round, so as the days get longer, the volumes go up,” says a grower.


The problems on the Mexican border create challenges for importers. “We struggle to be able to import products,” says an importer. “There is a delay of almost a whole day, as not enough customs officers are available to check on imported products.”


May 7 is an important date for the tomato sector. In mid-February, the US Department of Commerce announced a withdrawal from the Tomato Suspension Agreement. This could result in higher costs, including a 17.65% tariff for Mexican tomatoes.


The demand for tomatoes in the US is good. Now that the weather is getting better, it is increasing. The prices are stable. “The supply and the demand are in good balance,” says the importer. “There isn’t a great difference compared to last year. The prices this year are perhaps 10-15% higher.”


by Fresh Plaza

Good growing weather bodes well for tree fruits

Weather across the country appears to have been favorable so far for this year’s tree fruit crops, with seasons’ arrivals being slightly delayed.


Industry representatives describe their impressions of this season and recommendations for promoting tree fruit at retail.


2019 Outlook

Valhalla Sales & Marketing Inc., Kingsburg, California, grows 80% of its peaches, plums and nectarines within 60 miles of the Kingsburg area.


For the 2019 season, David Stone, president and CEO of the company, says as of March, everything looks good with no indications of problems, so he’s optimistic.


“We had a great winter with lots of water,” Stone says. “The bloom looks strong and spread out.”


Jeff Simonian, president of sales and marketing for Simonian Fruit Co., Fowler, California, says his company grows yellow peaches, yellow nectarines and red and black plums.


In March, Simonian said the bloom is about two to three weeks later than last season, which is an indication that everything will be later this year.


“We have received a lot of rain so far and the cumulative chilling hours are around 850 at this point (hours below 45° F),” he says. “Chilling hours are important because they lead to a stronger bloom and a good crop set.”


Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, Washington, grows three cherry varieties —  dark-sweet/red cherries, Rainier cherries and Skylar Rae cherries (its signature item) in the category.


Describing Skylar Rae cherries, Brianna Shales, communications manager for Stemilt, says: “It’s a premium offering to help retailers drive impulse cherry sales and is available from mid-June to mid-July. It’s a bi-colored cherry that is both the firmest and sweetest cherry we grow.”


All of Stemilt’s cherry packs come in a variety of sizes and pack types (including pouch bags, clamshells and new top-seal packs) to help retailers carry items that work for their store needs, as well as for retail pricing, she says.


Washington is where Stemilt grows the bulk of its cherries and summer fruits (peaches, nectarines, apricots).


“We had a mild winter (in Washington) up until February when lots of snow fell,” Shales says. “This is welcome news but could have the potential to cause a later bloom. Time will tell on that!”


Stemilt’s Artisan Organics peaches and nectarines have been 100% certified organic for more than a decade, with their season running late July through September. The company grows a high percentage of its apricots organically as well, with a late-June through July season.


Stemilt grows cherries in multiple regions in Washington for a season that runs from June to September.


“Our late program (mid-August to September) is when our A Half Mile Closer to the Moon cherries come available,” Shales says. “This special brand packages high-quality cherries that were grown 2,640 feet above sea level and higher —  literally a half mile towards the moon.”


Jerry Frecon, a retired Rutgers University professor and horticultural consultant for the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council, says New Jersey harvests 5,000 acres of peaches from 75 orchards that offer more than 100 varieties.


These fresh peaches are yellow and white-fleshed and are mostly the freestone variety, which are available from the state from July 20 to Oct. 1. Clingstone peaches are available from June 20 to July 20.


“Right now, we appear to have a full crop of peach flower buds that appear to be on schedule to open in early to mid-April,” Frecon says. “This is very good, with lots of moisture and cold but not temperatures low enough to damage any peach buds.”



At retail, product doesn’t move without promotion, says Stone of Valhalla Sales & Marketing.


“During summer, location and promotion are key to moving products,” he says, about July being the peak of the season with plenty of peaches, plums and nectarines available for promotion. “Big displays up front are key; price point is key.”


Simonian of Simonian Fruit Co. suggests promoting stone fruit as a grilling companion in cross-promotions with corn and produce and other items for the grilling season.


Pegi Adam, marketing consultant for the New Jersey Peach Council, says the group typically promotes New Jersey peaches directly to consumers, and when possible, works with supermarket nutritionists to do tastings and have them talk about the nutritional value and low calories of the fruit.


“We are experimenting with alternate ways to prepare peach dishes, which will be sent to supermarket nutritionists and farmers markets as flyers on what all you can do with peaches,” Adam says.


Consumers also are seeking treats with lower sugar and sodium, she says. “We promote peaches as fulfilling both these.”


Shales of Stemilt says frequent ads are a must —  given the seasonality of cherries and stone fruit.


“Generally, we see the first cherry ad on California cherries for Memorial Day, although the crop volume and timing dictates that,” she says.


Fourth of July also is a big promotional week for cherries that lines up well with Stemilt’s Washington crops, Shales says.


“July is a month where retailers can run several ads in a row, before slowing promotions to in-store offerings as volumes start to dwindle,” she says. “But the most important thing for retailers when it comes to cherries is to not miss a week —  and update ads and merchandising strategies along with the crop realities.”


Promoting quality and flavor is always a great strategy, Shales adds, “as it delivers a great consumer experience, which leads to repeat purchases and that’s where retailers win!”


Cherries also can be promoted as beneficial for those who suffer from arthritis/gout because of their anti-inflammatory properties and high antioxidant concentration, she says.



It’s important to promote multiple varieties, types and colors of stone fruit with big full displays, says Simonian of Simonian Fruit Co.


“For plums, you want to promote three or four colors; peaches and nectarines, promote both white and yellow-flesh varieties,” he says.


Some retailers even do secondary displays for stone fruit near the registers to catch the impulse buyers, Simonian says.


Adam of the New Jersey Peach Council says locally grown displays, such as those that play up “Jersey Grown” or “Jersey Fresh,” appeal to regional shoppers.


Cross-promotion displays for peaches can include vanilla ice cream; angel food cake/pound cake for a great dessert; plain yogurt with fresh sliced or pureed peaches mixed in (as opposed to commercially flavored “peach” yogurt with too much sugar, sodium); sliced and sautéed peaches accompanying pork roast/chops; or peaches in green salad instead of tomatoes, Adam says.


Cherries are an impulse purchase, so dedicating lots of display size to these fruits is important, says Shales of Stemilt.


“We’ve also seen success for retailers who use secondary locations to feature cherries,” she says. “We even have a display for Skylar Rae cherries that can go at check stands to further drive awareness and impulse sales of this cherry.”


Finally, Shales says retailers shouldn’t be afraid to get creative with their cherry and stone fruit displays.


“Greens, like arugula, could be a fun tie-in and would work with refrigerated displays,” she says. “There are also fresh cheeses, like chevre, that go great with both fruits. Of course, cherries and chocolate are always a hit!”


Supermarket Perimeter

By Chris Crawford


Large Pacific Northwest pear crop results in softer market

A large crop last season means that there is still ample pear volume coming out of the Pacific Northwest. Combined with the slow start in fall, the market is seeing softer prices compared with the previous few years. “We have more volume than at this time last year,” noted Ed Weathers of Duckwall Fruit. “This is mainly due to the larger crop the Northwest produced last season. Additionally, sales began slowly last fall and we have been playing catch up all season. The market has been down and prices are lower than they have been in previous years.”


Approaching the middle of April, early pear varieties have been exhausted and producers are now focusing on the mid-late season pears such as Green and Red Anjou and Bosc. “The remaining pears are all made up of later season varieties,” Weathers said. “All early
season pears including Comice and Starkrimson are all finished for the season.”


Mexico importing more this year
Even though the market is a little softer this year, one advantage of having a large crop is that there are greater opportunities for both promotions on the domestic market as well as being able to offer more fruit to export markets. This has been the case when it comes to Mexico – the largest US pear importer – which has seen a strong increase in imports.


“Overall, exports are mostly similar to what they were a year ago,” Weathers explained. “This however depends on the region. One notable exception is Mexico where exports are up by 20 percent on last season. A big part of this is because there is a larger crop. The Mexico market prefers Anjou pears in particular. Anjous ship well and Mexican consumers like them.”


Consumer bags and pear conditioning
There hasn’t been too much innovation in the past year when it comes to consumer packaging for pears. Rather, retailers are consolidating on what is available. Producers have noted that demand for consumer bags – especially the stand-up pouch bags – continues to increase, as Weathers observed, “Stand-up pouches continue to get more play in the US market.”


He also said that the industry is embracing the conditioned pear program that was encouraged by USA Pears. The idea is to condition pears to ripen further before arriving on the store shelf, enabling consumers to have ready-to-eat pears, with the thought that greater consumer satisfaction and faster fruit movement will be the result. “Duckwall Fruit as well as the wider pear industry is doing more pear conditioning. It’s a long-term project that will likely take years for feedback to be assessed and shown how the market has
reacted to it.”


Author: Dennis Rettke

Spring artichoke supply closely matches Holiday pull

Supplies of spring artichokes from California are solid right now.


“We are currently harvesting spring artichokes from Castroville, Ca. All the production is in Castroville which is the Artichoke Center of the World,” says Philip Barrientos, commodity account manager for Ocean Mist Farms which is also based in Castroville. Barrientos notes that supplies of the vegetable are mostly in the large sizes of 12 and 18 and then will move into smaller sizes as the season progresses.


“Last year, spring production for artichokes was a bit later,” says Barrientos, adding that Ocean Mist sees demand for artichokes from both foodservice and retail clients. “However, this year with the winter season we had, product came on a bit earlier than typical spring season production.”



Spring pick up
Demand for the unique vegetable is strong right now which isn’t surprising given spring is traditionally artichoke season. “However there is a noticeable increase of consumption during the first quarter of the year, thus our winter artichoke program success,” says Barrientos.


Part of that success can be attributed to the ongoing efforts to educate consumers about how to eat an artichoke. “Artichoke education for both the retailer and the consumer continues to be the key challenge,” says Barrientos. “We address this challenge with a robust communication program, recipe and video distribution and information on our website,”



New database promotion
It also includes promotions such as the one Ocean Mist launched at the beginning of the month, namely “Reach for the Gold.” This 30-day campaign reaches out to the company’s database of customers with weekly prizes through email-based trivia. It also provides consumers tips on eating artichokes.


Meanwhile demand for 2019’s artichokes look more in line with this season’s supply. “Last year during Easter season pull, artichokes were very limited and therefore, created a great market,” says Barrientos. “This year is different. It’s not bad, but supplies are more closely “matching” holiday pull.”


Author: Astrid Van Den Broek

Grape growers welcome high temperatures High California desert temperatures speed up lettuce transition to Salinas

Temperatures in the Coachella and Yuma areas peaked in the upper 90s early this week, serving as a reminder that summer is around the corner. High winds also accompanied the higher temperatures and were felt throughout California. No damage was reported from the windy conditions, but the high temperatures certainly had an effect on produce.


For grape growers in the Coachella district, the heat was very much welcomed, given the overall cool winter which resulted in minimal warmth in the area up until now. Growers were looking at a delayed start but the hot weather has come just in time.


“The hot weather at the start of this week has helped the plants to grow faster,” noted Franz DeKlotz of Richard Bagdasarian Inc, synonymous with the Mr. Grape label. “It provided a lot of heat summation units, which build when the average temperature is above 50 degrees. Recently, we have experienced cooler than average temperatures which has pushed the start of the grape season back a little. The higher temperatures will hopefully bring the start date closer to what we are used to. So overall, we are quite happy.”


DeKlotz said the company also grows peppers and eggplants and with the season just about to start, the heat provided an impetus for these commodities as well. “Our season for peppers and eggplants is due to start on April 22 and it typically goes through June,” he shared. “More heat extends the growing period. When we have temperatures averaging above 65 degrees at night, the plants essentially grow 24/7.”


Leafy greens in midst of transition to Salinas
If the lettuce and leafy green season wasn’t already finishing up in the desert districts, it certainly would be now. Growers of lettuces and other leafy greens are currently in the process of transitioning to Salinas this week. Therefore, the heat this week will only serve to speed this up. “Anytime you get a spike in temperatures like we just had, it accelerates the growth of plants,” noted Mark McBride of Coastline Family Farms. “The volume switch between Salinas and the desert has already been flipped and we expect there to be very little remaining down there in the front part of next week.”


Although temperatures are lower again now, the process is not going to be reversed, as growers note that at this time of year, it’s only a matter of time when 100 degrees is on the cards again. The reported windy conditions have not caused any damage even in the new growth up in Salinas. “Tuesday we certainly had gusty winds up and down the entire West Coast, including Salinas,” McBride observed. “However, the younger plants are in better shape to handle these conditions and there hasn’t been any damage reported. We are looking forward to getting going in Salinas after the difficulties Mother Nature presented to us during the winter.”


McBride did however, note that the market can expect some supply disruption in the coming weeks when the effects of the heavy rain earlier this year will make a mark on production. “After a smooth start, we can expect some swings in volume as well as quality a few weeks into the Salinas season,” he said. “Everything was planted according to schedule for the early product, but the rains did cause some delays in subsequent planting and this will likely lead to some disruption in supplies in a few weeks’ time.”

Author: Dennis Rettke 

Grape volume to pick up by the end of the month

Grape supplies continue to be even and volume will start to build by the end of April.


“Both districts from Mexico and California’s Central Valley will have promotable supplies. It also looks like a great quality grape year so far,” says Keith Wilson with King Fresh Produce LLC in Dinuba, Ca.


Wilson attributes the good crops to a variety of factors. “We had adequate chill hours this past winter which puts the grape vines into dormancy. Also–more and more–new, high-producing varieties are coming into production on a lot of ground both in California and Mexico.” He also notes that Mexico may start five to seven days later than normal.


Chile winding down
At the same time, the Chilean season for grapes is wrapping up with good supplies of red seedless grapes, but tighter availability on green seedless grapes.


Meanwhile demand on imported grapes is good currently with growers and shippers having an eye to promote fruit for the next few weeks.


As far as upcoming Holidays that fit well with Table Grape promotions. “The most important is Memorial Day. Memorial Day has always matched well with supplies from Mexico and Coachella, CA.,” notes Wilson.

Green pricing up
All of this means pricing right now on red grapes out of Chile are sitting at about $18-$20 while green grapes are in the $30 range. Wilson also notes that red grapes out of Chile may rise $2-$4/box. “Out of Mexico, we think the prices will be in an acceptable range to compel retailers to  promote,” says Wilson.


What could continue to affect pricing on California grapes are labor rates. “We have a decent amount of people to work in the vineyards currently but our wage increase will be another $1/hour annually until January 1st 2022. By increasing $1/hour per year, that works out to an extra $.80 cents/box,” he says, noting that the industry continues to push in the direction of automation to handle a labor-intensive product such as grapes.


But for now, the industry transitions away from Chilean imports, which continue to trickle in, to more domestic supplies. Mexican grapes will come in slowly in late April and by May 10th, the supplies should increase in volume.


By Freshplaza

Chaos on the border between Mexico and the US

Yesterday, FreshPlaza published an editorial on waiting times at the Mexico-US border. This article from El Financiero talks more about waiting times. The northern border is not closed, but it is already a mess for the trucks that transport goods from Mexico to the United States, clogging the traffic in some of the busiest border crossings in the world.


Following Donald Trump’s threats of a border closure, Mexican companies are rushing to send as much merchandise as possible to the United States in the event of a closure. Meanwhile, up to 750 US Customs and Border Protection officers were reassigned to border patrol sectors at the end of March, limiting the personnel dedicated to the flow of goods from south to north.


As a result, waiting times to cross the border have skyrocketed and can take up to 10 hours longer than usual.


Trump acknowledged on Saturday in a tweet that there will be delays in traffic and trade due to “the large-scale wave of illegal immigrants trying to enter the United States,” adding that the US will focus on border security, not ports of entry, until Mexico stops the ridiculous and massive migration.


Despite Trump’s threats, or because of them, Mexico has been cooperating. “I don’t think we’re going to have an official closure,” said Larry Kudlow, the White House’s chief economic adviser, on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.


Kudlow also said he does not believe the border conflict will interfere with efforts to approve a renegotiated NAFTA trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.


Since the trucks are stuck at the border, Mexican companies have to pay more for additional vehicles to load the shipments. Even though the United States has not yet experienced a significant shortage of products from Mexico, the prices of at least one product, avocados, have skyrocketed amid worries about a border closure. Buyers of berries, limes, and asparagus are making plans to limit the potential consequences of such closure.


Waiting times are especially long in El Paso, Laredo, and the San Diego area, said Ben Enriquez, Mexico’s senior vice president for Transplace, a logistics service provider. It now takes 12 hours to cross into the United States through El Paso. On a normal day it would take 1 or 2 hours, he said.


by Fresh Plaza

Transport strike affects Argentina’s lemon exports

A stoppage by transporters in Tucuman – for an indefinite period of time and in support of an improvement in freight rates – is affecting the start of the lemon export campaign: a business that in 2018 achieved an income of 1 billion dollars.


It is the main economic activity in the area and 40 to 45 thousand workers depend on it. The protest, which began last on Wednesday April 3, is being carried out by the Cargo Carriers Association of Tucuman (ATCT).


Producers, industrialists, packers, and exporters of citrus fruits grouped in the Association of Citrus Producers of the NOA (ACNOA) demanded that the strike be ended and social peace reestablished, as they denounced threats on the part of the truckers. They also said that “they have to resile from their illegitimate position and respect individual liberties.”


The ACNOA also made a strong claim to the security forces of the province, demanding that they guarantee “the right to free movement on routes, access to private property, free trade, industry, and the workers’ physical integrity.”


Finally they sent a message to the Judiciary authorities: “It is the duty of Justice to enforce laws to avoid chaos.”


Martin Carignani, the president of ACNOA, said that the carriers “should let the different actors of the chain work freely, while looking for an exit to their conflict. The rates must be agreed upon without any coercion. The free fixing of tariffs is a right and responds to the law of supply and demand.”


by Fresh Plaza

Due to erratic weather on the East and West Coast, prices have skyrocketed as the demand for celery increases

SALINAS, CA – As far as the spotlight goes, this should be a high time for celery, which is branching out from its reputation as a vehicle for peanut butter and cream cheese. Low supplies and uncharacteristically high demand, however, has created the perfect storm for a tight market. Sammy Duda, among the fourth generation to help lead Duda Fresh Farms, took some time to walk me through the current climate.


“Supply is significantly short due to the amount of volume and yield we lost from weather on both coasts,” Sammy shares, telling me that weather anomalies on both the East and West Coast growing regions made it impossible to offset one another. In other words, we are in the midst of a change, with the experts already working to bring balance back. “Change does not happen overnight—supply will improve once we respond and adjust to this new normal of celery consumption. Working with Mother Nature, this will take roughly 6 months for supply to meet the new demands of the category. It’s important to note that supplier and retailer communication is key to capitalizing on trends like this.”


The new demand spike is at least in part thanks to celebrity interest inspiring a new prospective fanbase.

“The celery market as a whole is afflicted with considerable crop/yield loss. Towards the end of 2018, the celery market supply was flat, but aligned with typical industry demand. Then in late December, we saw demand go through the roof with celebrity endorsements for celery juice,” Sammy says. “The market was unable to react because the supply was still aligned with historical demand patterns. Erratic weather coupled with this exponential increase in demand has caused prices to skyrocket, and new consumers who’ve never bought celery before are beginning to buy at this never before seen retail price.”


Per capita consumption of fresh celery in the U.S. was recently decreasing after remaining steady. The Duda team shared that USDA Economic Research Service showed in 2017 per capita consumption of fresh celery was 4.6 pounds per person. The high of 6.4 pounds per person was reached in 2001.



Celebrity interest has caused celery demand to go through the roof “Never did we ever anticipate such an increase in demand. With this historical spike in demand, we as farmers can’t react quickly enough to increase supply. It takes roughly 6 months from planting to harvesting, so we did not have time nor could we really react to this top consumer trend,” he explains.


Even so, as the industry looks to put steps in place to tip the scales back, Sammy says we need to entice a younger demographic to purchase celery and encourage consumers to utilize it. According to IRI data, national total celery dollar sales showed an increase of 3% over the same period a year ago for the 52-weeks ending Dec. 30, 2018 and volume showed a 5% increase over the same time period. Snacking and convenience, he adds, have both been factors in increasing demand across retailers all over the country.



With demand on the rise, celery supply isn’t expected to rise until this summer “We continually look at the category to determine movement and consumer interests,” Sammy tells me. “When celery production decisions are made, it takes about a year to turn it around. While demand continues to rise, supply is not expected to increase until summertime. We have never seen market conditions like this in the celery category and the Duda family has been farming celery since 1926.”




by Duda Farm Fresh Foods