Blog Archives

Potato movement good, but transportation a concern for Red River Valley shippers

Ted Kreis, marketing director of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, said “movement is going well.” USDA figures show “for the week ending Dec. 6 that 124,000 hundredweight of Red River Valley potatoes had been shipped. “This is up 18 percent this year over the previous year. And it’s more than 2012 and 2011 too,” Kreis added.

For 2014 as a whole volume is up despite the fact that the crop started two weeks later than in 2013. “We’ve made up the difference in the late start,” he said.2008-9-8-1620-red-harvest-conveyorDespite a later start than 2013, volume is up for Red River Valley potatoes.

The Red River Valley produced somewhat fewer yellow potatoes than last year, but Kreis said these are “insignificant” numbers. Red potato production was up somewhat.

“The quality was much better” in the 2014 crop, he noted. “We had more potatoes and better quality.” In December the stocks on hand were the same volume “but there will be less shrink” in the pack-out.

“We were late planting, which cut into the yields, which were average.” Yields overall in the valley were spotty, with some growers having greater yield and others less than a year ago. “Overall it evened out.”

David Moquist, a potato grower-packer-shipper and secretary-treasurer of Crystal, ND-based O.C. Schulz, is pleased by movement into December.

Paul Dolan, manager of Associated Potato Growers Inc., based in Grand Forks, ND, did not see “a lot of Christmas boost” for his potato crop. He added that Associated’s potatoes “are storing and keeping well. There are no frost issues.”

Dolan noted that Associated’s total potato volume is down from a year ago, but the saleable volume is up because of high packouts due to excellent quality.

Small-sized Russet potatoes produced in Idaho and Washington in 2014 have brought down the market and created competition for Red River Valley red potatoes. “This has hurt prices,” Dolan said. He expected the market will improve in January because Wisconsin shippers will have finished most of their shipping and Florida’s spring growers are not expected to have the volume produced a year ago.

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

Red River Valley anticipates a good red potato harvest

Beneficial rains over the Red River Valley in late August and early September were setting the stage for good harvest conditions of the region’s red potato crop.

Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association in East Grand Forks, MN, added that good harvest conditions, including a softening of the northern plains soil, can be as important to crop quality as the growing conditions that created the potatoes. If the soil is too hard it can damage the spuds during harvest.

Kreis said some Red River Valley reds were packed and immediately shipped in early September.

“We expect a good crop this year,” Kreis told The Produce News. “The early reports are that everything is looking good now. There have been a lot of samples” but the large harvest for storage wouldn’t begin until mid-September.

“Last year we put about 4 million bags into storage,” he said. “The number this year will be that, or exceed that, this year. I really don’t know. Yields can vary tremendously. It’s hard to guess exact numbers.”

The Red River Valley’s red potato acreage is expected to be up 1 or 2 percent this year. In 2013, the valley produced 23,000 acres of red potatoes. North Dakota produces a total of about 90,000 acres of potatoes. Beyond reds, these are mostly russets that are virtually dedicated to the processing market. Kreis added that the red potato acreage actually includes yellow potatoes, which will represent about 8 percent of the fresh production.

David Moquist, the secretary-treasurer of O.C. Schulz & Sons Inc., located in Crystal, ND, said the quality of the 2014 potato crop looks good, with higher yields than a year ago.

“If demand holds like it did with the Minnesota crop, there is a good chance the price holds,” said Steve Tweten, president and chief executive officer of NoKota Packers Inc., located in Buxton, ND. “If demand goes down” for Red River Valley red potatoes “with extremely cheap russets hitting the market, all bets are off.”

Tweten said russet potatoes “tend to put a ceiling on the market, but the spread in the price between reds and russets the past few years has increased. The ceiling is limited when russets are plentiful and cheap.”

Tweten said, “The potato crop looks nice. The quality is good. We have average tonnage, based on samples. Not everyone will be harvesting until the week of Sept. 15.”

In a press release that Kreis sent to The Produce News on Sept. 5, he said, “All signs are that it will be a very nice crop. Once we got past the late spring planting, growing conditions have been ideal, but we are still predicting average yields, but harvested acres may be up a bit. This would give us between 4.2 million and 4.5 million hundredweight of potatoes for the fresh market; over 90 percent would be reds, the remainder yellows.

“Demand for red and yellow potatoes in both sectors has increased the past two shipping seasons quite rapidly at the expense of russets,” the release from Kreis continued. “I think there are a number of factors including more exposure of colored potatoes on cable food networks, women’s magazines and restaurant menus. There has also been a substantial increase in retail promotions and shelf space, as red potatoes grow in popularity.”

Kreis added, “Red potatoes from the Red River Valley and Central Minnesota are easily the top sellers in supermarkets in most of the two states.”

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

Changes in agriculture increase high river flow rates

Just as a leaky roof can make a house cooler and wetter when it’s raining as well as hotter and dryer when it’s sunny, changes in land use can affect river flow in both rainy and dry times, say two University of Iowa researchers.

While it may be obvious that changes in river water discharge across the U.S. Midwest can be related to changes in rainfall and agricultural land use, it is important to learn how these two factors interact in order to get a better understanding of what the future may look like, says Gabriele Villarini, UI assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, assistant research engineer at IIHR — Hydroscience & Engineering and lead author of a published research paper on the subject.

“We wanted to know what the relative impacts of precipitation and agricultural practices played in shaping the discharge record that we see today,” he says. “Is it an either/or answer or a much more nuanced one?

“By understanding our past we are better positioned in making meaningful statements about our future,” he says.

The potential benefits of understanding river flow are especially great in the central United States, particularly Iowa, where spring and summer floods have hit the area in 1993, 2008, 2013 and 2014, interrupted by the drought of 2012. Large economic damage and even loss of life have resulted, says co-author Aaron Strong, UI assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and with the Environmental Policy Program at the UI Public Policy Center.

“What is interesting to note,” says Strong, “is that the impacts, in terms of flooding, have been exacerbated. At the same time, the impacts of drought, for in-stream flow, have been mitigated with the changes in land use composition that we have seen over the last century.”

In order to study the effect of changes in agricultural practices on Midwest river discharge, the researchers focused on Iowa’s Raccoon River at Van Meter, Iowa. The 9,000-square-kilometer watershed has the advantage of having had its water discharge levels measured and recorded daily for most of the 20th century right on up to the present day. (The study focused on the period 1927-2012). During that period, the number of acres used for corn and soybean production greatly increased, roughly doubling over the course of the 20th century.

Not surprisingly, they found that variability in rainfall is responsible for most of the changes in water discharge volumes.

However, the water discharge rates also varied with changes in agricultural practices, as defined by soybean and corn harvested acreage in the Raccoon River watershed. In times of flood and in times of drought, water flow rates were exacerbated by more or less agriculture, respectively. The authors suggest that although flood conditions may be exacerbated by increases in agricultural production, this concern “must all be balanced by the private concerns of increased revenue from agricultural production through increased cultivation.”

“Our results suggest that changes in agricultural practices over this watershed — with increasing acreage planted in corn and soybeans over time — translated into a seven-fold increase in rainfall contribution to the average annual maximum discharge when we compare the present to the 1930s,” Villarini says.

The UI research paper, “Roles of climate and agricultural practices in discharge changes in an agricultural watershed in Iowa,” can be found in the April 15 online edition of Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Iowa. The original article was written by Gary Galluzzo. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Texas Issues Fish Consumption Warning for Neches River Basin

Texans have received a warning from the state department of health about six species of fish caught in portions of the Neches River Basin due fish testing for heightened levels of mercury and dioxins.

The area of concern is a portion of the Neches River Basin that includes Sam Rayburn Reservoir and B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir. It stretches from the State Highway 7 bridge west of Lufkin downstream to the U.S. Highway 96 bridge near Evadale, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The affected species consist of:

  • Blue catfish (over 30 inches)
  • Flathead catfish
  • Gar (all species)
  • Largemouth bass (over 16 inches)
  • Smallmouth buffalo
  • Spotted bass (over 16 inches)

Women of childbearing age and children under 12 are advised not to eat any amount of fish caught from the area.

Adult men and women past childbearing age should not eat any smallmouth buffalo, and should only eat a maximum of one 8 oz. meal per month of the flathead catfish and gar, while only a maximum of two 8 oz. meals per month of the blue catfish, largemouth bass or spotted bass.

Children under 12 and women who are nursing, pregnant or who may become pregnant should avoid eating these fish because the nervous systems of unborn and young children are particularly susceptible to toxins, the health department said.

Food Safety News

Torrential rain destroys grapes in South Africa’s Hex River Valley

“between half a million and a million boxes no longer good for export”
Torrential rain destroys grapes in South Africa’s Hex River Valley

Grape growers in the Hex River Valley in South Africa have been again hit by torrential rain. The damage is still being measured but European importers are reporting that there could be between half a million to a million boxes of grapes which are no longer of export quality. “So much rain at this time of the year is very unusual in South Africa and large volumes have been destroyed particularly in the Hex River Valley and also to a lesser extent in the Berg River. When 100 mm of rain falls in South Africa the soil is washed away’ said Gilbert Klingenberg van Exsa Europe.

According to the importer it is mainly Flame and other red varieties which have been hardest hit. “From the white varieties it was the Sugraone that was mostly affected, but it was mainly the red varieties. The later varieties are not yet ripe so the damage may be limited, but the early varieties have been hard hit and are no longer suitable for export. At the very best these will be sold on the local market.”

Gilbert explains that the damage will also affect the price of red grape varieties. “The prices are already around two Euro higher that last week. It is expected that the red grapes will be the scarcest. The price of white grapes has up to now stayed stable. This kind of damage is never good but this has happened at a very bad time. The Namibian season has finished, Argentina and Chile have also had problems and Indian grape won’t be on the market until the end of February.

For more information:
Exsa Europe
Tel: +31 88 735 0003
Mob: +31 620 25 78 11
[email protected]
www.exsaeurope.com

Publication date: 1/15/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Red River Valley potato harvest running late in 2013

A delayed Red River Valley red potato crop was very late in revealing itself. But by Oct. 3, about 50 percent of the shipping district’s crop had been harvested, according to Ted Kreis, the marketing director of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association in East Grand Forks, MN.

The most optimistic hopes for the crop were being fulfilled, Kreis said. “The quality is looking very good. The yields vary from 120 hundredweight to 240 hundredweight per acre. OpenerShotpulledA potato field in blossom in the Red River Valley. The 2013 season was running late, with about half of the crop harvested at press time.We will have less product” because of the low side of the yields, compared to the 2012 crop, “but we will make up for it with higher packout rates. We will have better quality and we will ship as many as last year.”

Kreis indicated that the valley received gentle rain over a wide region Sept. 27-28. This softened the dry soil for critical harvest dates. He said product harvested in dry soil faces dirt clumps with sharp edges that harm the spuds. More rain — with perhaps a few harmless snowflakes — was forecast for Oct. 4-5.

“A lot of damage was down to production early,” with too much rain and a late spring. Then, Kreis said, “The growing season progressed very well. July and August were very dry, which trimmed yields further. But we’re salvaging a good crop and the rain helps.”

Coleen Vincent, the sales manager of Northern Valley Growers LLC in Hoople, ND, said Oct. 3, “The potatoes in the bin now all look good. The growers told me the crop is better than they expected. Considering how the year started, we are very happy with the crop. We seem fine. We are happy with what we are putting in the bins.”

Steve Tweten, president of NoKota Packers Inc. in Buxton, ND, said Oct. 3 that NoKota’s harvesting was about 35-40 percent complete. “The quality is very nice. The tonnage is variable, which is what we expected. Overall, NoKota has average yields. For others, yields are good to below average.” An average yield, he said, is about 200 hundredweight per acre.

Fresh-market red potato prices will “need to rise to be OK,” Tweten said. “The prices are better than last year. The outlook is that there is a good chance the market should improve, based on the national position. There is OK tonnage, which should match nicely to demand.”

When the Red River Valley potato crop is normally 50 percent to 60 percent harvested, it was only 11 percent complete in 2013, Chuck Gunnerson, president of the Northern Plains Potato Growers told The Produce News.

Gunnerson indicated the crop was planted two or three weeks late in the spring and has been running behind since that time.

Heading into October, the Red River Valley potato industry was still trying to grasp the nature of its crop, Gunnerson said. “There are many variables. Some areas had an excess of rain. Some had a lack of rainfall.”

That picture would not clearly reveal itself until the harvest was into October this year.

Red River Valley growers all had virtually the same message: There have been mixed reviews in early field sampling. There has been a difference in yields within one field. A cold spring delayed planting in the valley and the timing has remained out of sync since.

The good news is that early indications are that the quality of the 2013 Red River Valley red potato crop is good.

According to Gunnerson, there was less than an inch of rain recorded in nearly all weather stations in North Dakota in the first 25 days of August. September had some rain but was still inadequate for the growers’ needs.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Red River Valley potato harvest running late in 2013

A delayed Red River Valley red potato crop was very late in revealing itself. But by Oct. 3, about 50 percent of the shipping district’s crop had been harvested, according to Ted Kreis, the marketing director of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association in East Grand Forks, MN.

The most optimistic hopes for the crop were being fulfilled, Kreis said. “The quality is looking very good. The yields vary from 120 hundredweight to 240 hundredweight per acre. OpenerShotpulledA potato field in blossom in the Red River Valley. The 2013 season was running late, with about half of the crop harvested at press time.We will have less product” because of the low side of the yields, compared to the 2012 crop, “but we will make up for it with higher packout rates. We will have better quality and we will ship as many as last year.”

Kreis indicated that the valley received gentle rain over a wide region Sept. 27-28. This softened the dry soil for critical harvest dates. He said product harvested in dry soil faces dirt clumps with sharp edges that harm the spuds. More rain — with perhaps a few harmless snowflakes — was forecast for Oct. 4-5.

“A lot of damage was down to production early,” with too much rain and a late spring. Then, Kreis said, “The growing season progressed very well. July and August were very dry, which trimmed yields further. But we’re salvaging a good crop and the rain helps.”

Coleen Vincent, the sales manager of Northern Valley Growers LLC in Hoople, ND, said Oct. 3, “The potatoes in the bin now all look good. The growers told me the crop is better than they expected. Considering how the year started, we are very happy with the crop. We seem fine. We are happy with what we are putting in the bins.”

Steve Tweten, president of NoKota Packers Inc. in Buxton, ND, said Oct. 3 that NoKota’s harvesting was about 35-40 percent complete. “The quality is very nice. The tonnage is variable, which is what we expected. Overall, NoKota has average yields. For others, yields are good to below average.” An average yield, he said, is about 200 hundredweight per acre.

Fresh-market red potato prices will “need to rise to be OK,” Tweten said. “The prices are better than last year. The outlook is that there is a good chance the market should improve, based on the national position. There is OK tonnage, which should match nicely to demand.”

When the Red River Valley potato crop is normally 50 percent to 60 percent harvested, it was only 11 percent complete in 2013, Chuck Gunnerson, president of the Northern Plains Potato Growers told The Produce News.

Gunnerson indicated the crop was planted two or three weeks late in the spring and has been running behind since that time.

Heading into October, the Red River Valley potato industry was still trying to grasp the nature of its crop, Gunnerson said. “There are many variables. Some areas had an excess of rain. Some had a lack of rainfall.”

That picture would not clearly reveal itself until the harvest was into October this year.

Red River Valley growers all had virtually the same message: There have been mixed reviews in early field sampling. There has been a difference in yields within one field. A cold spring delayed planting in the valley and the timing has remained out of sync since.

The good news is that early indications are that the quality of the 2013 Red River Valley red potato crop is good.

According to Gunnerson, there was less than an inch of rain recorded in nearly all weather stations in North Dakota in the first 25 days of August. September had some rain but was still inadequate for the growers’ needs.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

River Ranch to cease operations in November

River Ranch Fresh Foods, a grower-shipper-processor of fresh vegetables based in Salinas, CA, will cease operations, effective Nov. 8.

RRlogoA letter to its customers signed by company President Ken Adams and Vice President of Sales Peter Hayes stated that Taylor Farms of California would service foodservice value-added customers and Taylor Farms Retail would service retail value-added accounts beginning Nov. 9. Additionally, arrangements have been made with Growers Express to service all field-pack commodity requirements. In the letter, the company said it is “committed to helping our loyal customers have a smooth transition to excellent new suppliers.”

River Ranch, which was formed 34 years ago, was purchased by Taylor Fresh Foods three years ago with the hope of improving financial performance and regaining viability.

However, “the costs today to produce a field-pack carton of lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower continue to escalate in an ever-challenging marketplace,” according to the letter.

River Ranch said is working to seek employment opportunities for its 171 employees with other Taylor Fresh Food operating companies and within the local industry.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

River Ranch to cease operations in November

River Ranch Fresh Foods, a grower-shipper-processor of fresh vegetables based in Salinas, CA, will cease operations, effective Nov. 8.

RRlogoA letter to its customers signed by company President Ken Adams and Vice President of Sales Peter Hayes stated that Taylor Farms of California would service foodservice value-added customers and Taylor Farms Retail would service retail value-added accounts beginning Nov. 9. Additionally, arrangements have been made with Growers Express to service all field-pack commodity requirements. In the letter, the company said it is “committed to helping our loyal customers have a smooth transition to excellent new suppliers.”

River Ranch, which was formed 34 years ago, was purchased by Taylor Fresh Foods three years ago with the hope of improving financial performance and regaining viability.

However, “the costs today to produce a field-pack carton of lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower continue to escalate in an ever-challenging marketplace,” according to the letter.

River Ranch said is working to seek employment opportunities for its 171 employees with other Taylor Fresh Food operating companies and within the local industry.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

River Ranch to cease operations in November

River Ranch Fresh Foods, a grower-shipper-processor of fresh vegetables based in Salinas, CA, will cease operations, effective Nov. 8.

RRlogoA letter to its customers signed by company President Ken Adams and Vice President of Sales Peter Hayes stated that Taylor Farms of California would service foodservice value-added customers and Taylor Farms Retail would service retail value-added accounts beginning Nov. 9. Additionally, arrangements have been made with Growers Express to service all field-pack commodity requirements. In the letter, the company said it is “committed to helping our loyal customers have a smooth transition to excellent new suppliers.”

River Ranch, which was formed 34 years ago, was purchased by Taylor Fresh Foods three years ago with the hope of improving financial performance and regaining viability.

However, “the costs today to produce a field-pack carton of lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower continue to escalate in an ever-challenging marketplace,” according to the letter.

River Ranch said is working to seek employment opportunities for its 171 employees with other Taylor Fresh Food operating companies and within the local industry.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

River Ranch to cease operations in November

River Ranch Fresh Foods, a grower-shipper-processor of fresh vegetables based in Salinas, CA, will cease operations, effective Nov. 8.

RRlogoA letter to its customers signed by company President Ken Adams and Vice President of Sales Peter Hayes stated that Taylor Farms of California would service foodservice value-added customers and Taylor Farms Retail would service retail value-added accounts beginning Nov. 9. Additionally, arrangements have been made with Growers Express to service all field-pack commodity requirements. In the letter, the company said it is “committed to helping our loyal customers have a smooth transition to excellent new suppliers.”

River Ranch, which was formed 34 years ago, was purchased by Taylor Fresh Foods three years ago with the hope of improving financial performance and regaining viability.

However, “the costs today to produce a field-pack carton of lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower continue to escalate in an ever-challenging marketplace,” according to the letter.

River Ranch said is working to seek employment opportunities for its 171 employees with other Taylor Fresh Food operating companies and within the local industry.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

River Ranch to cease operations in November

River Ranch Fresh Foods, a grower-shipper-processor of fresh vegetables based in Salinas, CA, will cease operations, effective Nov. 8.

RRlogoA letter to its customers signed by company President Ken Adams and Vice President of Sales Peter Hayes stated that Taylor Farms of California would service foodservice value-added customers and Taylor Farms Retail would service retail value-added accounts beginning Nov. 9. Additionally, arrangements have been made with Growers Express to service all field-pack commodity requirements. In the letter, the company said it is “committed to helping our loyal customers have a smooth transition to excellent new suppliers.”

River Ranch, which was formed 34 years ago, was purchased by Taylor Fresh Foods three years ago with the hope of improving financial performance and regaining viability.

However, “the costs today to produce a field-pack carton of lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower continue to escalate in an ever-challenging marketplace,” according to the letter.

River Ranch said is working to seek employment opportunities for its 171 employees with other Taylor Fresh Food operating companies and within the local industry.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

River Ranch to cease operations in November

River Ranch Fresh Foods, a grower-shipper-processor of fresh vegetables based in Salinas, CA, will cease operations, effective Nov. 8.

RRlogoA letter to its customers signed by company President Ken Adams and Vice President of Sales Peter Hayes stated that Taylor Farms of California would service foodservice value-added customers and Taylor Farms Retail would service retail value-added accounts beginning Nov. 9. Additionally, arrangements have been made with Growers Express to service all field-pack commodity requirements. In the letter, the company said it is “committed to helping our loyal customers have a smooth transition to excellent new suppliers.”

River Ranch, which was formed 34 years ago, was purchased by Taylor Fresh Foods three years ago with the hope of improving financial performance and regaining viability.

However, “the costs today to produce a field-pack carton of lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower continue to escalate in an ever-challenging marketplace,” according to the letter.

River Ranch said is working to seek employment opportunities for its 171 employees with other Taylor Fresh Food operating companies and within the local industry.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

River Point Farms sees ownership change

River Point Farms, a leading onion producer based in Hermiston, OR, announced that brothers Bob and Rick Hale have bought back control of the company.

Last month, the Hale brothers led an investment that also included new investor and strategic partner Taylor Farms as well as existing shareholder CIC Partners. The cooperative transaction closed, making River-Point-Farms-Logothe Hale brothers once again controlling partners of River Point Farms. The brothers also own and operate Hale Farms, a 37-year-old, first-generation diversified family farming operation.

“Rick and I are elated about this transaction for River Point Farms, which empowers us to make business decisions to reinvest quickly in new opportunities and react to market conditions and customer requests,” Bob Hale, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

River Point Farms and its sales team will remain focused on their foodservice program business but also have plans to begin expanding their retail business solutions as well, working with strategic partner Curry & Co. in Brooks, OR.

The Hale brothers say they will invest in facilities and equipment for the operation, which includes plans for offering retail-ready products in discussion with strategic partner Taylor Farms, based in Salinas, CA.

According to Hale, the onion producer has several new strategic partnerships and affiliations that positions the company to expand its growing, production, packing, shipping and product offerings over the next several months.

River Point Farms is the largest red onion grower in the country, with 450 million pounds of overall onion volume each year. The onion producer has in-house growers with operations in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California, with a national distribution to all 50 states and Canada.

“We want our customers to know that we remain fully committed to providing a very high standard of quality with our onions and with the service and supply that they have come to trust and rely on for their businesses,” Hale said in a press release. “As we look to the future, we see growth and opportunity for River Point Farms, our current customers and our potential customers with new and improved capabilities.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Delaware River region a readymade hub for international shipment of fruit

GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ — On June 16, the Nagato Reefer left the West Cape of South Africa laden with thousands of tons of Navel and Cara Cara oranges and clementines due for delivery at Holt Logistics’ Gloucester Marine Terminal.

At 8 a.m. July 3, a pilot boat left the dock in Philadelphia to meet the ship upriver and guide it into its berth.

The Gloucester dock was already abuzz awaiting the arrival. Grower-shippers, importers, even POD-14King Citrus, the new mascot of the South African citrus industry, at the helm on the captain’s bridge of the refrigerated cargo ship the Nagato Reefer in Gloucester, NJ. (Photo by Chip Carter)South African Consul for Trade Affairs Gugulethu Gingqi were on hand, celebrating the 15th year of the country’s citrus trade with the U.S.

Six importers work together to bring South African citrus to North America and have “strategically looked at this market and said, ‘Do we open it to everybody or do we choose our importers with care that have South Africa’s best interest at heart?’“ said importer AMC Direct Inc. Vice President of Operations Miles Fraser-Jones.

Said AMC National Accounts Manager Casey Kio, “Everybody has the same agenda — no one importer’s trying to outdo the other. They all want the same result to the grower and you don’t see that from other import countries or even domestic growers — California citrus doesn’t operate that way, Florida citrus doesn’t operate that way.”

Once the product arrives, “We compete head on with each other, but it’s for the greater good,” Fraser-Jones said.

It is a unique partnership in a region that is built on unique partnerships. While the infrastructure along the Delaware River — including ports, stevedores, expediters and brokers, customs agents, fumigators, truckers and transporters, interstate and rail systems — may have begun as an ad hoc collection of individual business operators, it has coalesced into maybe the nation’s finest example of a region working together for the betterment of the whole.

Thirty years ago, the first imports of Chilean grapes into the U.S. marked a revolution for the Delaware River region that is still ongoing as it has become the fruit import capital of North America.

“Within an overnight drive of Philadelphia there are well over 100 million consumers,” said Holt Logistics President Leo Holt. The emergence of the region as an international fruit import center is “a demonstration of the interdependence of countries and cultures. Like Benjamin Franklin said, no nation was ever hurt by trade.”

And much of that trade happens along the Delaware River.

“The facilities are definitely conducive to this type of business, the infrastructure is there so that’s quite helpful,” said shipper Howard Posner, general manager of Seatrade USA. “Port authorities themselves used to be a lot more aggressive, they’ve kind of put some of the reefer [trade] on the backburner. But Philly is good access to the consumer market, good access to the Canadian markets and I don’t see that changing.”

Ship Philly First is a three-year-old private marketing organization, comprised of business owner-operators from the committee, designed to more aggressively market the area.

“The expediters, the custom brokers, the truckers, there’s so much infrastructure here it’s mind-boggling,” said Fred Sorbello, SPF president and owner of New Jersey’s Mullica Hill Group. “But it’s mature — it’s been here 30 years. It would be hard to recreate that. When something’s been organically grown for 30-40 years it’s hard to recreate.

“But who’s marketing Philadelphia to the rest of the world? We didn’t feel it was being done effectively enough so we organized,” Sorbello said. “We don’t care who gets the business — as long as Philadelphia gets the business, we all win.”

Holt sees much of the international trade that comes into the region from his office overlooking the Delaware. He understands how interconnected the region is, how all the players rely on each other to keep Philly a top-of-mind destination for international shippers.

“What we do here seems very basic, but it primes the pump. And that pump is innovation, opportunity: Industry feeds a village, that village is able to educate their kids and they’re able to go to the next step. It’s a cycle,” Holt said. “There are 10 million tons of citrus produced in the U.S. that’s excellent, so what comes in from South Africa, Chile, Spain, is — to say a drop in the bucket is not even fair — it’s a breath, but it’s the lifeblood of longshoremen and teamsters and drivers.

“It’s a testimony to globalization, and I think that means good things for U.S. products as well. These ships go both ways,” Holt said. “Because we’re a bigger consumer than we are a producer, there are big freight and supply chain opportunities.”

But anyone involved in international trade today has to “bet on safety, sustainability and efficiency,” Holt said. “There’s an awareness today of the long-term harm that’s done if people are rapacious. You leave behind a bitter taste that can spring back on you in two or three generations. We should be prepared to support [international producers] for what they put into a product if it’s good, and the people on that side should be willing to invest in themselves. From my perspective, it’s all about free trade, and trade in general is a thing that breeds understanding.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Ship Philly First brings competitors together to promote the Delaware River region

PHILADELPHIA — The infrastructure along the Delaware River is uniquely positioned to handle imports of international fruits and vegetables. With major facilities from Wilmington, DE, upriver to Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, a network of expediters, transporters, fumigators and cold storage facilities exist that tie a bow on the import package.

Ship Philly First is a three-year-old private marketing organization designed to promote the entire region. POD-1A U.S. Coast Guard vessel makes its way up the Delaware River between Philadelphia and New Jersey, with the Camden water tower and mammoth waterfront cranes in the background, at 8 a.m. on the morning of July 3. (Photo by Chip Carter)While there is nothing unique about that, what does set the Philly crowd apart is the fact that SPF has competitors working arm-in-arm to further all interests.

There are no banquets, no golf outings, no meetings at swanky resorts — instead all dues go straight to marketing and promotion.

“I am extremely proud of this community and it has been an honor to serve as president,” said Fred Sorbello, SPF president, owner of New Jersey’s Mullica Hill Group and himself a peach and apple grower. “I’ve learned a lot. The SPF membership is comprised of some really smart and knowledgeable people with world-class facilities. We’re also good listeners. We want to learn more. We want to know what is it you’re looking for from a port community that would help us work with you. We’re not saying we’ve got everything you need — we’re saying talk to us and tell us what you need. As a result we’ve become probably one of the more powerful organizations in Philadelphia now at a trade level.”

“The ports along the Delaware River are unique and the infrastructure is very entwined,” said Ed Fitzgerald, assistant vice president of import operations for OHL Inc. and SPF treasurer. “There is the business that’s 52 weeks out of the year, like bananas. During certain times of the year there are the mountains that come in — watermelons, cantaloupe — from various countries. That lays a good foundation because it’s consistent. It’s repetition.

“Then we have the deciduous product that’s 12 months out of the year too. Spanish clementines, Preurivan grapes, the Chilean season that runs all the way from December through May. There are smaller niche commodities like summer citrus and chestnuts out of Italy. That’s what makes us unique: In comparison to other ports where it’s seasonal, here it’s year-round. The cold storage facilities and expediters are intertwined. More and more commodities are coming on. The great thing about Philly, it is a backhaul market. And depending on the product, the cold treatment has to be north of the 39th parallel latitude and east of the 104th longitude. That is basically Philadelphia. Of course we’re in direct competition with New York, but New York does not have the cold storage facilities.”

SPF member Larry Antonucci, president of 721 Logistics and its J&K Fresh East division, added, “We started our business here because of the infrastructure. We’re tired, as an ownership group and a company, that Philadelphia is considered a red-headed stepchild. As far as the service providers go and the infrastructure, the Class A railroads and other access we have, it’s very frustrating. The port just needs to be marketed better and if we can do that jointly — publicly, privately, those entities getting together and acting as one to publicize the port — we can certainly handle any kind of commodity form anywhere in the world.”

Even direct competitors are working together to promote the area’s services and benefits.

“Fred Sorbello is a friendly competitor and was the driving force behind Ship Philly First,” said Frank Manfredi of The Manfredi Cos. in Kennet Square, PA. “He asked me to join and then I went to my very first meeting and found myself sitting right next to another competitor, Rusty Lucca (of Lucca Cold Storage in Vineland, NJ). I’ve known Rusty and Fred, but as we talked and got to know each other better, we found our parents all had ag backgrounds, we all worked on farms, it was almost spooky how much we had in common.

“We are friendly competitors. If I lose a deal to Fred or Rusty I’ll have an opportunity to bid on that deal in three years. But if it the deal goes to Baltimore, none of us are getting it. We realized it’s all in our best interests to keep it here — then we’ll fight over it. So we’re not to be perceived as a threat to any other agency out there marketing the Delaware River — we just want to be waving a very big flag at a very important time as everybody’s jockeying for position.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines