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Stellar using CA storage to extend its Chilean kiwi crop

For the first time in its more than 25-year history with the fruit, Madera, CA-based Stellar Distributing Inc. is putting some of its Chilean kiwifruit in controlled atmosphere storage in California to extend its marketing season.

Sales Manager Kurt Cappelluti said a severe frost in Chile during the early part of the year cut that crop’s volume in half and many of his suppliers are already running out of fruit.

From a typical industry volume of about 21 million cartons shipped to the United States, he said there will only be a total of about 10 million cartons when all is said and done this year. While kiwifruit from that South American country typically is in the market until California starts in late summer or early fall, the Stellar executive said that will not be the case this year.

Consequently, the firm, which has about 200,000 cases headed to California from Chile or already in the company’s cold-storage facility, is going to put at least 125,000 cartons in controlled atmosphere over the next several weeks.

Cappelluti said it is certainly a risk since he has not done it before, but he said the health of the fruit will be monitored closely and kiwifruit does well in CA.

He believes the risk is worth the reward as the short situation has created a strong market for the little fuzzy fruit.

In fact, he said, “I’ve been selling kiwi since 1986 and I’ve never seen a better market. There is lot of action and movement and the market is still going higher.”

On Thursday, May 8, he said the standard nine-kilo carton had an f.o.b. price of $ 23 to $ 26 and was moving to $ 25-$ 27. As an historical reference, he said a year ago he was selling Chilean kiwifruit for $ 7-$ 9 per carton.

According to Cappelluti, the first shipments from Chile hit the United States in late March with a price in the high teens and it has been steadily rising ever since.

He added that kiwifruit from New Zealand should come into the U.S. marketplace later this month and may command a price north in the $ 30-$ 32 per-carton range. He said the green crop from New Zealand available for U.S. export has declined in recent years as more growers have switched to the gold variety, which means the demand-exceeds-supply situation for that category could continue throughout the summer.

Relief might not come until California begins shipping. While that is typically around Oct. 1, Cappelluti said the state’s warm winter has seemingly pushed everything up a couple of weeks from the San Joaquin Valley and desert regions, including figs, grapes and summer fruits.

If that continues, Cappelluti said there could be some California kiwifruit on the market in mid-September.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Unified, Haggen extend supply agreement

Unified Grocers and Haggen Inc. said Monday they have extended their supply partnership for an additional five years.

Los Angeles-based Unified has been the primary supplier for Haggen, the 29-store chain based in Bellingham, Wash., since 2007, when the wholesaler acquired Seattle-based Associated Grocers.

Unified said the flexibility and structure of the agreement will complement Haggen’s Northwest Fresh go-to-market strategy. 

“The extension of our partnership with Haggen was made possible by the close working relationships we have,” said Leon Bergmann, EVP, sales and procurement, for Unified.


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“The new agreement will provide additional efficiencies for both companies while providing consistent execution with access to the greatest variety of products for Haggen’s customers.”

Clement Stevens, SVP of merchandising and marketing for Haggen, said the retailer is “confident that our vendor partners, and ultimately our customers, will benefit from the ever-growing selection of quality products.”

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Unified, Haggen extend supply agreement

Unified Grocers and Haggen Inc. said Monday they have extended their supply partnership for an additional five years.

Los Angeles-based Unified has been the primary supplier for Haggen, the 29-store chain based in Bellingham, Wash., since 2007, when the wholesaler acquired Seattle-based Associated Grocers.

Unified said the flexibility and structure of the agreement will complement Haggen’s Northwest Fresh go-to-market strategy. 

“The extension of our partnership with Haggen was made possible by the close working relationships we have,” said Leon Bergmann, EVP, sales and procurement, for Unified.


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“The new agreement will provide additional efficiencies for both companies while providing consistent execution with access to the greatest variety of products for Haggen’s customers.”

Clement Stevens, SVP of merchandising and marketing for Haggen, said the retailer is “confident that our vendor partners, and ultimately our customers, will benefit from the ever-growing selection of quality products.”

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Unified, Haggen extend supply agreement

Unified Grocers and Haggen Inc. said Monday they have extended their supply partnership for an additional five years.

Los Angeles-based Unified has been the primary supplier for Haggen, the 29-store chain based in Bellingham, Wash., since 2007, when the wholesaler acquired Seattle-based Associated Grocers.

Unified said the flexibility and structure of the agreement will complement Haggen’s Northwest Fresh go-to-market strategy. 

“The extension of our partnership with Haggen was made possible by the close working relationships we have,” said Leon Bergmann, EVP, sales and procurement, for Unified.


CONNECT WITH SN ON TWITTER

Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.


“The new agreement will provide additional efficiencies for both companies while providing consistent execution with access to the greatest variety of products for Haggen’s customers.”

Clement Stevens, SVP of merchandising and marketing for Haggen, said the retailer is “confident that our vendor partners, and ultimately our customers, will benefit from the ever-growing selection of quality products.”

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Cool weather delays start of Texas deal, new Vidalia ship date could extend season

The Texas onion deal will be a little late out of the gate this season but growers will get some help extending that season with a new later start date for Vidalia onion growers.instead

A cold winter by Texas standards — averaging about 10 degrees cooler than normal — will mean the Texas deal will not begin until about mid-March after harvest a week earlier. Mexico has also been behind this season due to cooler temperatures.

In late 2010, Texas onion growers appeared to be sitting pretty. They were coming off a year where their crop fetched as much as $ 40 a box — roughly a dollar a pound. Consumer demand had grown steadily for several years. Any past problems were squarely in the rearview mirror.

Then, as almost always happens, a few growers decided if some was good, more was better. Overplanting was rampant, production boomed. The predictable result of too much product on the market was a drop in pricing. Two years of struggle followed.

In 2013, growers cut back acreage by 40 percent. Most managed to work out water rights in drought-plagued Texas. The result was a return to solid markets and solid profitability.

Texas growers learned from the struggles of 2011-12, put that knowledge into play in 2013 and will follow the same template for 2014.

They may actually get a boost from an unlikely (and in some cases unwilling) ally as well — Vidalia onion growers. Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black earlier this year established a prohibition against early shipping of Vidalia onions. Though there is a court challenge under way, as it stands now, no Vidalia onions can be packed or shipped prior to April 15. Some Georgia growers said they will not even begin that soon this year.

That means Texas will have a wider window of exclusivity for its homegrown product, as much as a six-week window.

“Over the years the Vidalia growers have chipped away at the Texas deal by packing earlier and earlier,” said Marvin Davis of Tex Mex Sales in Weslaco, TX. “They weren’t doing themselves any favors by putting early-season product on the market before it was ready, some of them anyway. If consumers don’t have a good experience early in the season, they’re not going to come back.”

A judge is expected to rule on a court challenge to the Georgia pack-and-ship date some time in March. If the date is upheld, Texas growers will reclaim part of their original exclusivity window. If not, they stand to benefit anyway as some Vidalia growers have said they will not ship earlier onions regardless of the outcome of the judicial proceedings.

Meanwhile, “Sweet onions coming out of Mexico this year have been outstanding and the Texas crop looks even better,” said Delbert Bland of Bland Farms LLC in Glennville, GA, which also has operations in Mexico and the Lone Star State. “With the new highway and bridge in Mexico, the Southwest is becoming more important in the onion deal every day.”

“It’s still early, but the crop looks really good,” added Tex Mex’s Mike Davis.

Lone Star State growers are looking at promising markets — in the low and mid-20s in late February and early March — and decreased production in Mexico this year after similar drops in 2013 bode well for Texas.

Some key growing areas also benefited from several significant rain events over the last few months that helped growers stave off ever-present worries about water supplies.

“Prices should be strong,” said Bret Erickson, president of the Texas International Produce Association. “We still need moisture. But quality looks to be excellent and we will have a good supply of sweet onions out of Texas.”

In 2013 “there was one week in there you could actually call winter and that was it, the first week of January,” said Don Ed Holmes of The Onion House in Weslaco. This year the cooler weather provided a reverse of 2013.

And while the crop is late, Holmes was quick to note that onions are dormant during much of the production cycle, getting most of their growth in the month before harvest, and thus virtually impervious to cooler weather.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Cool weather delays start of Texas deal, new Vidalia ship date could extend season

The Texas onion deal will be a little late out of the gate this season but growers will get some help extending that season with a new later start date for Vidalia onion growers.instead

A cold winter by Texas standards — averaging about 10 degrees cooler than normal — will mean the Texas deal will not begin until about mid-March after harvest a week earlier. Mexico has also been behind this season due to cooler temperatures.

In late 2010, Texas onion growers appeared to be sitting pretty. They were coming off a year where their crop fetched as much as $ 40 a box — roughly a dollar a pound. Consumer demand had grown steadily for several years. Any past problems were squarely in the rearview mirror.

Then, as almost always happens, a few growers decided if some was good, more was better. Overplanting was rampant, production boomed. The predictable result of too much product on the market was a drop in pricing. Two years of struggle followed.

In 2013, growers cut back acreage by 40 percent. Most managed to work out water rights in drought-plagued Texas. The result was a return to solid markets and solid profitability.

Texas growers learned from the struggles of 2011-12, put that knowledge into play in 2013 and will follow the same template for 2014.

They may actually get a boost from an unlikely (and in some cases unwilling) ally as well — Vidalia onion growers. Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black earlier this year established a prohibition against early shipping of Vidalia onions. Though there is a court challenge under way, as it stands now, no Vidalia onions can be packed or shipped prior to April 15. Some Georgia growers said they will not even begin that soon this year.

That means Texas will have a wider window of exclusivity for its homegrown product, as much as a six-week window.

“Over the years the Vidalia growers have chipped away at the Texas deal by packing earlier and earlier,” said Marvin Davis of Tex Mex Sales in Weslaco, TX. “They weren’t doing themselves any favors by putting early-season product on the market before it was ready, some of them anyway. If consumers don’t have a good experience early in the season, they’re not going to come back.”

A judge is expected to rule on a court challenge to the Georgia pack-and-ship date some time in March. If the date is upheld, Texas growers will reclaim part of their original exclusivity window. If not, they stand to benefit anyway as some Vidalia growers have said they will not ship earlier onions regardless of the outcome of the judicial proceedings.

Meanwhile, “Sweet onions coming out of Mexico this year have been outstanding and the Texas crop looks even better,” said Delbert Bland of Bland Farms LLC in Glennville, GA, which also has operations in Mexico and the Lone Star State. “With the new highway and bridge in Mexico, the Southwest is becoming more important in the onion deal every day.”

“It’s still early, but the crop looks really good,” added Tex Mex’s Mike Davis.

Lone Star State growers are looking at promising markets — in the low and mid-20s in late February and early March — and decreased production in Mexico this year after similar drops in 2013 bode well for Texas.

Some key growing areas also benefited from several significant rain events over the last few months that helped growers stave off ever-present worries about water supplies.

“Prices should be strong,” said Bret Erickson, president of the Texas International Produce Association. “We still need moisture. But quality looks to be excellent and we will have a good supply of sweet onions out of Texas.”

In 2013 “there was one week in there you could actually call winter and that was it, the first week of January,” said Don Ed Holmes of The Onion House in Weslaco. This year the cooler weather provided a reverse of 2013.

And while the crop is late, Holmes was quick to note that onions are dormant during much of the production cycle, getting most of their growth in the month before harvest, and thus virtually impervious to cooler weather.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Stop & Shop, King Kullen Extend Contract Talks

WESTBURY, N.Y. — Union workers at King Kullen and Stop & Shop stores in New York have agreed to a second extension of its current contract terms as negotiations with employers on a new deal continue.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 here said implementing legal requirements of the Affordable Care Act while minimizing its effects on members continue to be a primary focus of talks. Workers and employers have agreed to extend current terms through Nov. 2.


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An earlier two-week extension was to have expired Saturday.

“Our union negotiators felt it was important to sign another extension so we may continue to remain patient while thoroughly reviewing every option and every issue the ACA has created,” the union said in a memo to members. “Our committee is doing everything we can to resolve the difficult issues and cost increases created by this new federal law.”

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Second half bumper crop of Vidalia onions will extend season through Labor Day with promotable volume

Consumers and retailers will get a bonus from Vidalia, GA, this year.

Torrential rains in the early part of the Vidalia onion season led to a widespread outbreak of seed stem that reduced volume and led to a poor first half. But from May 1 on, blue skies, hot temperatures and steady winds were the order of the day, resulting in a in a bumper crop of excellent quality onions that will keep promotable volumes available through Labor Day.

Vidalia-July-update-1Torrential rains led to a widespread outbreak of seed stem in Vidalia, GA, but perfect weather in the second half of the season has led to a bumper crop, with storage units filled to overflowing. (Photo by Chip Carter)The unexpected bonus will give consumers who feel like they missed out on the early part of the Vidalia deal a chance to catch up – and will also give retailers a chance to promote Vidalias much later in the summer than usual.

“The season started a little rocky with the early issues but it’s turned out to be a season of excellent volume with quality looking great out of storage,” said John Williams of Herndon Farms in Lyons, GA. “We should have plenty of onions to ship through Labor Day.

“The research we did in 2012 with the Nielsen Perishables Group showed us that consumers are willing to pay a 20 percent premium for sweet onions,” said Delbert Bland, owner and president of Bland Farms LLC in Glennville, GA. “With Vidalia being the most popular variety, we’ve got plenty of volume to supply our customers so they can make the most of the season before shifting into another variety.”

“We had as good a second half as we have ever had,” said John Shuman of Shuman Produce in Reidsville, GA. “We’ve been truly blessed with outstanding quality and promotable volumes that will last all the way through Labor Day. This is a perfect opportunity for retailers to do some late summer promotions with Vidalias.”

Some retailers were scared off Vidalias when it appeared there would not be a large enough crop to cover ads. Vidalia growers want those retailers to know it is not too late to get back in the game.

“There is a very high quality Vidalia crop in storage,” said Richard Pazderski, who heads up the Vidalia operation for Utah Onions in Syracuse, UT. “There is very promotable volume and it will be marketed at unusually competitive prices for this time of year, compared to normal years. Basically, the best sweet onion in the world is waiting patiently to be offered to consumers at prices that would normally be unheard of for this time of year. It really should be the perfect opportunity for retailers to make up for lost sales during the early part of the Vidalia season.”

Vidalia growers were as surprised as anyone by the second half turnaround.

“I think the entire industry was surprised at the yields at the tail-end of the crop,” said Walt Dasher of G&R Farms in Glennville, GA. “A lot of volume really came on in the fields in the last week and pushed yields higher than we expected. Quality is still very good, price has come down due to the amount of product being put away in storage. Now we really need to get a market increase in order to help us offset the high cost that is involved with storing onions. Customers can continue to promote Vidalias because supplies are good and the quality is there to back that up.”

When supplies appeared to be short early in the deal, Vidalia growers “did exactly what they should have done at the time and with the information at hand — they sent up warning flares,” Pazderski said. “Heavy promotion at retail would have seemed to have been a reckless move and though it wasn’t necessarily discouraged, it certainly wasn’t encouraged at the level that it would normally have been.

“Everyone was happy to be able to fill the orders they were getting at the time and wanted to manage inventories in a responsible way that would give the 2013 program enough longevity for retailers to keep Vidalias on their shelves at least into July.”

But, “This season has turned out to be quite different than what was originally projected. Hindsight is always 20/20,” Pazderski continued. “It might appear that the Vidalia deal was mishandled by the growers during the first several weeks of shipping and that there may have been an effort to create a stronger-than-average market by leveraging a severe supply shortage. I can honestly say that this is not true in any way. There was a solid consensus that a possible disaster was imminent.”

With the turnaround, growers who once thought their storage units would be one-third to half filled at this point in the season instead find they are at capacity.

By the time growers realized they had a bumper crop on their hands, “it was too late for the retailers to react,” Pazderski said. Many had switched to other domestic programs and even though Vidalia growers have worked to get the word out about availability, “movement continues to be much slower than normal for this time of year” despite extremely competitive pricing.

Meanwhile, Pazderski said, “It’s tough to sit back and look at such a beautiful crop sitting in the controlled-atmosphere storages down here, knowing that product of this quality would be very welcomed by consumers in any market, but also knowing that we need heavier promotion to get it all in the pipeline and in front of them. I hope that retail promotion will increase significantly in the coming weeks to accomplish this. But, either way, what should have been a very solid year for both growers and retailers will likely end up average at best.”

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