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US (WA): Port dispute slows apple exports

A large apple crop in Washington means that the state’s growers will look to export a big portion of their crop this season. But a labour dispute between port operators and longshoreman has slowed the handling of containers through the ports, and could potentially lead to supply gaps for countries in Central America, South America and Asia, where Washington fruit is sent this time of year.

“The situation is a huge mess,” said Randy Steensma of Honey Bear Tree Fruit. “We’ve got containers full of apples that have been sitting at the port for a week because they haven’t been loaded yet. If things are running normally, the vessel is loaded and gone in 72 hours.” Refrigerated containers and the high quality nature of fruit destined for export means that apples in limbo at the port likely won’t spoil, but the delay in getting fruit out quickly could lead to supply gaps in some markets abroad.

“Buyers book on a weekly basis, so they will miss a week or two,” said Steensma. “We ship to Colombia, Honduras and Panama, so there will be gaps there, and also in some Asian markets, like Hong Kong, India and Jakarta, which is a big destination for us right now.” Shippers are hoping for a quick resolution to the labour dispute, which has intensified as the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have tried to agree on a new contract. The spillover from those negotiations has resulted in delays at the port. Though a resolution is urgently sought because of the broad commerce ramifications, Washington’s apple growers, who are sitting on a large crop, have been counting more on exports this year than in previous years.

“In a normal year, about a third of the state’s apple crop goes overseas,” explained Rebecca Lyons, international marketing director for the Washington Apple Commission. “However, this year, with the large crop we have and with the large apple crops in other states, we’re thinking upwards of 50 percent of our crop will have to go to export.” Up to now, Washington was on course to have a strong export season, with the state’s apple exports up 50 percent over the previous year. The state’s growers also gained direct access to China for their Red and Golden Delicious varieties, but the port problems haven’t allowed growers to fully take advantage of that.

“This is a big issue, not just for us, but for others as well,” said Lyons. “We just hope this will be quickly resolved.”

FreshPlaza.com

Rouses, AG-Baton Rouge dispute goes to trial

A judge in Thibodaux, La., is set to hear a case Monday between Rouses Enterprises and a former wholesaler, Associated Grocers of Baton Rouge.

Rouses has argued that it was unfairly cut off by AG-Baton Rouge in 2008 following Rouses’ acquisition of 16 Sav-A-Center stores in the New Orleans area in 2007. Rouses at the time was AG’s largest customer, accounting for 18% of its business, but said that the wholesaler refused to supply its newly acquired stores, improperly seized its stock in the group and removed its representative from its board of directors. 

Associated Grocers disputes Rouses’ characterization of the dispute, saying the retailer was paid the correct termination fee according to terms of their agreement.


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The Sav-A-Center stores, acquired from A&P, were supplied by C&S Wholesale Grocers at the time of their acquisition. Following the dispute with AG-Baton Rouge, Rouses used C&S as a primary supplier but a year ago moved to Associated Wholesale Grocers, the Kansas City, Kan.-based supplier serving Roses from its Gulf Coast distribution center in Pearl River, La. Donny Rouse, managing parter for Rouses, told SN Monday that the retailer was happy with AWG.

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South Africa: Sheehan table grape varieties dispute settled

Colors and AMC are ready for new era of cooperation
South Africa: Sheehan table grape varieties dispute settled

The two fresh produce companies, Colors and AMC have ended their dispute about the Sheehan table grape varieties and say they are ready to cooperate commercially and in table grape breeding in future.

The two companies announced in Cape Town that they have decided to end the dispute in the best interest of the development of the Sheehan varieties in South Africa, as well as in the best interest of producers who have already invested in plantings of the new varieties.

A new joint venture company, SNFL-Colors, with each company holding 50% of the shares, will in future be responsible for managing the development of the varieties in South Africa. The agreement comes after months of court actions in which the two companies contested the ownership of the varieties in the country. This made the cultivars with the names Allison, Melody, Krissy, Melanie and Magenta household names in the South African table grape industry.

Riaan van Wyk, CEO of Colors, says he is pleased that the development of these unique table grape varieties can now proceed. “We believe they will make a huge contribution to efforts of growers to offer the world the best table grapes available.”


“We believe that our new cooperation agreement is in the best interest of the South African table grape industry,” says Alvaro Munoz, CEO of AMC. “Growers can now go ahead and invest with confidence in these varieties.”

The joint statement says the details of the joint venture will be worked out during the next two weeks. “This will include the projected plantings for each of the five cultivars and the marketing strategies which will be employed. More details will be announced soon.”

The JV has in principle agreed that Colors and AMC Fruit SA will initially be the authorized distributors or marketers of the Sheehan varieties. “Growers will be free to choose which one of the two companies they would use to market their grapes”.

They have also confirmed that their cooperation in breeding new table grape cultivars which was started back in 2006 would continue and be expanded. “We will do so under the auspices of our joint cultivar breeding company, VITIS. We will certainly expand this breeding program, breeding for unique new table grape varieties, which will be in demand in world markets.”

The statement says that both companies want to resume the strong relationships they had in the past. “We are resuming our commercial cooperation,” says Riaan van Wyk and Alvaro Munoz, emphasizing that the AMC subsidiary, MMUK and Colors has worked together since 1998 and has assisted each other to build their companies and reputation on table grapes and citrus.
 
More than 200 hectares of the new Sheehan varieties have already been planted in South Africa and a further 250 will be planted this year. This will bring total plantings to 450 hectares, which in five years’ time are expected to deliver some 2.5 million cartons of these varieties into the world’s markets.

Publication date: 6/21/2013


FreshPlaza.com

Acme to cancel union contract over health fund dispute

TGF-FruitImageAcme Markets has told the union representing workers at its Philadelphia-area stores that it would terminate its contract with workers effective April 30, citing concerns about increasing healthcare costs.


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United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 has called a meeting of its members Monday to discuss a response, including a potential strike, the union said. The workers in the dispute have been working under terms of a contract that was to have expired more than two years ago.

Acme, a division of Boise, Idaho-based New Albertsons Inc., is citing the need to bargain for a planned increase in its obligation to a multiemployer employee benefit fund. The company stressed that would maintain the same pay rates and conditions as it currently offers employees, and that it was looking forward to continuing negotiations on a new contract.

“After careful consideration, we provided Local 1776 with notice of the cancellation of the expired contract because of the risk under the contract of healthcare cost increases which we believe need to be negotiated as part of the collective bargaining process rather than unilaterally implemented on the parties,” Chris Wilcox, a spokeswoman for Albertsons, told SN. “We provide and will continue to provide some of the best healthcare coverage in the nation to our associates, but need to work with the union to craft provisions that work in today’s healthcare environment.”

Acme said associates in Local 1776 had healthcare costs that were 25% to 100% higher than four other union locals that represent Acme workers and 400% higher than the national average.

The union in the meantime said Acme has failed to make required contributions to the welfare fund. According to court documents, the fund’s trustees determined that projected health claims would require employers to contribute the maximum 10% increase for the plan year beginning May 1 last year. Trustees said Acme owed the plan more than $ 1.6 million as of December.

Supermarket News

Oregon Seed Policy Dispute Sprouts Up on Special Session Agenda

The state, not a patchwork of local voters, should regulate seed, according to the Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB). The bureau’s policy was turned into Senate Bill 633 during the last session of the Oregon Legislature, but it did not get a vote in the House.

Now, SB 633 is back as part of the special session set to get under way Monday in Salem. Along with public employee pensions and taxes, the bill to prevent local governments or local voters from banning farm practices is on the special-session agenda.

The agreement between legislative leaders and Gov. John Kitzhaber calls for the special session to pass a package of a half-dozen bills, and, if they all don’t make it, the Democratic governor will veto the ones that do.

Now, however, the same groups that blocked SB 633 in the Oregon House by calling it “Oregon’s Monsanto Protection Act” are pressuring liberal Democrats, mostly from the Portland and Eugene areas, against including it in the larger pension/tax deal. Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, is circulating a petition asking that the farm bill be removed from the special-session package.

One of the opponent groups, Friends of Family Farmers, says that state jurisdiction of seed policy would be “a direct affront to Oregon’s respected organic and natural food trade sector….” It notes that Oregon is fifth in organic farms in the U.S., with 156,000 acres as of 2010, and the more than 444 certified organic farms in the state are threatened with serious economic losses from contamination from genetically engineered crops.

SB 633 would prohibit any local laws or regulations governing the display, distribution, growing, harvesting, labeling, marketing, mixing, notification of use, planting, possession, processing, registration, storage, transportation or use of agricultural seeds or products of those seeds, including finished crops, trees or food.

Oregon has an evenly split state House of Representatives, and one Republican legislative staffer told Food Safety News that it is going to be a reach for the Farm Bureau to get the necessary votes on SB 633 with groups such as the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters stirring up the other side.

OFB says it values all types of farming practices and technologies, but does not want one elevated at the expense of the other, and certainly not by local governments. And it says it makes no sense to have Oregon farms fall under as many as 400 jurisdictions.

Public hearings on the package of special-session bills are being held today and Friday in Salem, and the full House and Senate will be gaveled to order on Monday. Legislators will then take up Oregon’s shaky public-employee pension system and a $ 244-million tax package.

If the new version of SB 633 is voted on during the special session, it would grandfather in Jackson County, which has already banned GM seeds and crops.

Nationally, farmers planting genetically modified seeds approved for commercial use by USDA are losing an immunity they temporarily had from certain federal court actions. Known as the Farmer Assurance Provision by supporters and the “Monsanto Protection Act” by opponents, a federal budget provision since March has protected GM crops from being torn up in the same season if a federal judge found they were creating some sort of damage.  The Senate has now removed this proviso, much to the delight of the anti-Monsanto side.

Food Safety News

Oregon Seed Policy Dispute Sprouts Up on Special Session Agenda

The state, not a patchwork of local voters, should regulate seed, according to the Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB). The bureau’s policy was turned into Senate Bill 633 during the last session of the Oregon Legislature, but it did not get a vote in the House.

Now, SB 633 is back as part of the special session set to get under way Monday in Salem. Along with public employee pensions and taxes, the bill to prevent local governments or local voters from banning farm practices is on the special-session agenda.

The agreement between legislative leaders and Gov. John Kitzhaber calls for the special session to pass a package of a half-dozen bills, and, if they all don’t make it, the Democratic governor will veto the ones that do.

Now, however, the same groups that blocked SB 633 in the Oregon House by calling it “Oregon’s Monsanto Protection Act” are pressuring liberal Democrats, mostly from the Portland and Eugene areas, against including it in the larger pension/tax deal. Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, is circulating a petition asking that the farm bill be removed from the special-session package.

One of the opponent groups, Friends of Family Farmers, says that state jurisdiction of seed policy would be “a direct affront to Oregon’s respected organic and natural food trade sector….” It notes that Oregon is fifth in organic farms in the U.S., with 156,000 acres as of 2010, and the more than 444 certified organic farms in the state are threatened with serious economic losses from contamination from genetically engineered crops.

SB 633 would prohibit any local laws or regulations governing the display, distribution, growing, harvesting, labeling, marketing, mixing, notification of use, planting, possession, processing, registration, storage, transportation or use of agricultural seeds or products of those seeds, including finished crops, trees or food.

Oregon has an evenly split state House of Representatives, and one Republican legislative staffer told Food Safety News that it is going to be a reach for the Farm Bureau to get the necessary votes on SB 633 with groups such as the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters stirring up the other side.

OFB says it values all types of farming practices and technologies, but does not want one elevated at the expense of the other, and certainly not by local governments. And it says it makes no sense to have Oregon farms fall under as many as 400 jurisdictions.

Public hearings on the package of special-session bills are being held today and Friday in Salem, and the full House and Senate will be gaveled to order on Monday. Legislators will then take up Oregon’s shaky public-employee pension system and a $ 244-million tax package.

If the new version of SB 633 is voted on during the special session, it would grandfather in Jackson County, which has already banned GM seeds and crops.

Nationally, farmers planting genetically modified seeds approved for commercial use by USDA are losing an immunity they temporarily had from certain federal court actions. Known as the Farmer Assurance Provision by supporters and the “Monsanto Protection Act” by opponents, a federal budget provision since March has protected GM crops from being torn up in the same season if a federal judge found they were creating some sort of damage.  The Senate has now removed this proviso, much to the delight of the anti-Monsanto side.

Food Safety News