Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager at Stellar Distributing Inc. in Madera, CA, said marketplace dynamics will be changing by the end of October as kiwifruit imports from Italy continue to arrive in the United States.
“The glut is two weeks away,” he told The Produce News Oct. 13.
Stellar Distributing was established in the 1990s by parent company Catania Worldwide, which began operations in Toronto in 1929. Today, the third generation of the Catania family moves an extensive array of fresh produce to the global marketplace. The company is now headquartered in Mississauga, ON.
Stellar Distributing grows and markets kiwifruit and figs. The company also markets chestnuts, limes, apricots, pomegranates and persimmons. As a company, Stellar is vertically integrated, working with an extensive network of growers and suppliers in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
“Kiwi consumption continues to grow,” Paul Catania Jr., owner of Catania Worldwide, told The Produce News. “More and more people are growing the Gold variety.” Globally, he said Italy is the second-largest producer of kiwifruit. “U.S. kiwi will always have a home,” he added.
Cappelluti said the 2014 kiwifruit season has been a good one, and California production ramped up in early October. He said Stellar has been moving 25 loads of quality kiwifruit per week. Sales of California kiwifruit will continue through the end of April.
“The kiwi deal has been strong,” he stated. “But I see the deal crashing in the next two to three weeks.”
California and Italy are both Northern Hemisphere producers, and Cappelluti said Italian producers expect overall volume will be up approximately 15 percent this season. As a result, he said the United States will surely see increased competition from exports for shelf space at retail. Pricing, he added, is expected to decline as Italian exports are received in the United States.
“We want to be fair to all global growers,” he said, adding that Stellar also imports kiwifruit from Chile, New Zealand, France and Greece. “I don’t want to see a severe crash in the United States.”
As prices begin to fall, Cappelluti said it will be important for retailers to work with companies that can deliver promised volume.
“Choose wisely,” he said. “It’s important to go to companies that specialize in kiwi.”