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Loadings from Ontario Greenhouses are Picking Up

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Ontario’s greenhouse vegetable shipments will start building in mid-February and continue to increase through the spring.

DelFrescoPure of Kingsville, Ontario reports the company began picking mini cucumbers and strawberries in late January. 

The greenhouse industry has been increasing the amount of high-pressure sodium lights being installed in facilities, which lengthens the harvest season.

If you want to grow tomatoes during the winter, as well as peppers, strawberries, or just about anything else, high-pressure sodium lights are a necessity.

Pure Hothouse Foods of Leamington, Ontario reports Canadian production of seedless cucumbers (both long English and mini cucumbers) get underway in mid-February and continue with increasing volume well into the spring.

Central Mexican greenhouse operations experienced cloudier than usual weather and lighter volume in late November and December compared to last year.

Tomatoes, bell peppers and baby eggplants will start in Canada in mid-March to early April and continue to ramp up volume heading into the spring.

Winter greenhouse production was held down by lengthy cloud cover and persistent low light levels in Mexican growing regions, said Harold Paivarinta, senior director sales and business development for Red Sun Farms, Kingsville, Ontario. 

Red Sun Farms of Kingsville, Ontario report following a very challenging winter they were anxiously awaiting the maturing of additional crops in Virginia and Ontario this spring.

NatureFresh Farms of Leamington, Ontario notes since mid-January, production has been ramping up again, especially in peppers and tomatoes and good supplies are seen in the coming months.

In February, the company sees Mexico returning to normal production, and shortly after, Canada will start picking more cucumbers..

Ontario accounts for nearly 80 percent of total Canadian greenhouse production and the region has seen steady growth in greenhouse vegetable acreage, averaging close to 7 percent per year for multiple years. However, little change in acreage is expected from last year. 

Ironically, the growth pattern reduction is a result in part due to the diversion of acreage to cannabis. No report is yet available on total amount of acreage devoted to cannabis production in Ontario.

Overall greenhouse vegetable acreage in Ontario is close to 3,100 this year, which is flat or up very slightly from about 3,000 acres a year ago.

While lacking organic statistics, it is estimated organic acreage may represent about 10 to 11 percent or more of greenhouse vegetable acreage.

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Former Veggie Greenhouses Converted to Cannabis Production Headed to NASDAQ

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Over one million square feet of former vegetable greenhouse production has been converted to grow cannabis in Delta, British Columbia by Village Farms International Inc. and will be traded on the NASDAQ Capital Market.

Village Farms CEO Michael DeGiglio has said the listing is a precursor to “aggressively pursue” opportunities with hemp and cannabidiol products in the U.S. The company has a total of 130 acres (5.7 million square feet) of vegetable greenhouses in Texas that can be converted to produce hemp and CBD products, a process that could be completed in eight months or sooner.

DeGiglio has said the company might also produce hemp in open fields, but plans depend on Texas legalizing hemp.

DeGiglio said in a recent Q&A with Real Money/TheStreet that recreational marijuana and CBD production potentially can bring 10 times the margins that tomatoes do.

The company will be listed under “VFF” on NASDAQ, and continues to be listed under the same symbol on the Toronto Stock Exchange, according to a Village Farms news release.

The initial trading date on NASDAQ for Village Farms common shares has not been determined.

The company plans to report fourth-quarter/year-end financials on March 13, according to the release.

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Love Beets Campaigns for Loving Your “Heart-BEET”

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BALA CYNWYD, PA – Love Beets, the creators of everyone’s favorite ready-to-eat beets, will celebrate National Heart Health Month with their “Love Your Heart-BEET” campaign during the month of February.  The campaign will span both in-store efforts and digital activations across the Love Beets social platforms with the goal of educating consumers that beets are a great addition to a heart-healthy diet.

The brand will partner with Kroger stores nationwide to perform in-store demonstrations and distribute Love Beets samples to customers.  With every sample, each customer will also receive a recipe booklet with several beet-inspired recipes that have been certified heart-healthy by the American Heart Association.

“We’re so excited because having these recipes certified by the American Heart Association only adds to the integrity of our campaign,” said Natasha Lichty, Brand + Marketing Director at Love Beets, USA, LLC.   

“Promoting and inspiring a healthy lifestyle is a key part of our mission at Love Beets and we’ve made sure that these recipes are very approachable to show consumers that creating healthy meals doesn’t have to be complicated or too time-consuming,” said Lichty.

The heart-healthy certified recipes include a beet-citrus smoothie, a simple beet and feta salad, beet energy bites, beet hummus crudité platter, a golden beet salad, and a roasted cauliflower beet soup.  All of the recipes have ten or less simple and affordable ingredients, making them easy for consumers to replicate at home.  The recipes will also be available on Love Beets’ website.

Additionally, Love Beets will be partnering with Registered Dieticians on their social platforms throughout the campaign to post more heart-healthy recipes and tips, and to help explain why beets are a great heart-healthy food.

 “Beets are considered a good source of fiber, with nearly 4 grams per cup. Fiber helps to lower cholesterol to protect the heart,” said Sammi Haber Brondo, MS, RD, CDN.

Haber also explained that beets contain helpful compounds such as antioxidants and phytochemicals. Specifically, carotenoids and flavonoids in beets help to protect cells against damage from free radicals, reduce inflammation, and decrease risk of heart disease.

“One cup of beets also contains about 10 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for potassium.  Potassium flushes out sodium in the body to lower blood pressure and helps reduce the risk of heart disease,” said Haber Brondo.

The Registered Dieticians Love Beets will be partnering with during the campaign include @CaitsPlate, @VeggiesandChocolate, @EmilyKyleNutrition, @Bites by Mia, @DaisyBeet, and @DishingoutHealth.

Follow along on Love Beets Instagram (@lovebeets) throughout February for giveaways, recipes, and tips about maintaining a heart healthy diet and lifestyle! Use the hashtag #loveyourheartbeet to post and find beet-inspired, heart-healthy recipes.

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SunFed Starts Shipments of Texas Beets, Mexican Onions

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By SunFed

Beets made the 2019 list for Super Foods and that makes SunFed happy!

“We had beets in the ground before the 2019 Super Foods list came out”, said Gretchen K. Austin, “SunFed is always looking to expand our offerings and beets made perfect sense to us this year in Texas. The fact that beets made Super Food stardom is just kismet!”

SunFed will start with Red and Gold Texas beets in early February. Candy Strip beets will be harvested a few weeks later. Depending on movement, we should have beets into May. Our beets are clipped and topped, packed in a 25# poly bag, 50# bags, tote sacks, or 60” bins, for both retail and processor needs.

SunFed is also kicking off its Mexico onion season, shipping out of south Texas from their Weslaco division. “This is our second year with onions, and it looks to be a good year. Onion consumption is up and demand is strong.” The Mexico crop will start crossing into south Texas in early February.

The crop will start with yellow sweet onions in 50# net sacks followed a few weeks later with 50# white onions. The sizing will be traditional Jumbo, Large/Medium, and medium. With the onion market hot, book your orders early.

SunFed’s Texas onion program will follow on the heels of the Mexico program with a little overlap in April. “This is SunFed’s second year selling Texas onions. We will carry a sweet yellow 1015 onion and a red onion.” Plants are healthy and field yield looks good. More updates to come as the Texas crop matures.

About SunFed

Headquartered in the high desert of southern Arizona near Nogales, we are a fresh produce company with a passion for providing the highest quality fruit and vegetables, produced by the world’s finest growers. This passion and our commitment to developing FRESH INNOVATIONS have earned us a reputation for providing fruit and vegetables with extended freshness and consistent flavors, textures and colors. We are proud to be an industry leader in food safety, which is a culture ingrained throughout our company and backed up by technology, packaging and processes. We employ a team of food safety specialists who have set the highest standards in the fresh produce industry and then administer internal audits to ensure that we’re meeting or exceeding them.

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New Zealand Kiwiberries are Arriving in the U.S.

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The Munch’n kiwiberry brand by Freshmax New Zealand of Tauranga is arriving in the U.S. and other export markets.

A New Zealand summer full of sunshine means an early harvest is underway, according to a news release. The Munch’n kiwiberry brand is in its fourth season, with typical harvests in late February to early- to mid-April.

“We have new product launches in multiple markets, and buyers are extremely supportive about the Munch’n kiwiberry brand. This is our third year actively promoting, and we are really thrilled about the commitment of our retail partners,” Tracey Burns, Freshmax export division manager, said in the release.

Munch’n kiwiberries will be available in the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, India and Taiwan.

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The Top 10 Leading States in the U.S. for Fresh Produce Shipments

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In modern times California has been the top, undisputed volume king when it comes to the nearly 1.2 million truck load equivalents of fresh fruits and vegetables that is shipped primarily by truck every year in the U.S. A review of USDA statistics for 2017 shows this has not changed.

Here are the Top 10 states when it comes to annual fresh produce shipments: California, Washington, Idaho, Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina and New York.

1.  California. While the “left” coast continues more towards socialism and sometimes the politicians are doing out right looney stuff, somehow California agriculture continues, although over the past two decades more agriculture production has moved to Mexico because of lower labor and production costs. Still, no state comes close to California in terms of sheer volume.

Here are some stats that prove it.

*395,575 truck load equvialents

*4.1 million acres of fresh produce and tree nuts.

*$24 billion value.

*2600 produce shippers, wholesalers and businesses.

2.  Washington. Led by shipments of apples, potatoes and onions, Washington state is a distant second to California, but easily outdistances other states.

*229,565 truck loads.

*315,917 acres.

*$4 billion value.

*308 produce shippers, wholesalers and businesses.

3.  Idaho. Famous Idaho potatoes are the undisputed king here.

*121,763 truck loads.

*376,134 acres.

*$967 million.

*117 shippers, wholesalers and businesses.

4.  Florida. The Sunshine state is known for it tomatoes, mixed vegetables, citrus and strawberries. Considering it is virtually dead in summertime for produce shipments, its ranking is impressive.

*118,040 truck loads.

*814,117 acres.

*$3 billion.

*900 shippers, wholesalers and businesses.

5. Arizona. Winter shipments provide a big portion of various lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower and other vegetables, including potatoes and lemons.

*75,575 truck loads.

*165,814 acres.

*$764 million.

*352 shippers, wholesalers and businesses.

6.  Wisconsin. The Badger State is led by potato shipments primarily from the central part of the state. This area also is the leading shipper of cranberries in the fall. There’s also some cabbage shipments from Southeastern Wisconsin.

*40,720 truck loads.

*315,917 acres.

*$715 million.

*129 shippers, wholesalers and businesses.

7.  Colorado. Barely trailing Wisconsin is Colorado, with its San Luis Valley potato loadings, plus mixed vegetables in the Northeastern part of the state.

*40,530 truck loads.

*89,443 acres.

*$305 million.

*122 shippers, wholesalers and businesses.

8.  Texas. The Lone Star state has citrus and mixed vegetable shipments from the Lower Rio Grande Valley. West Texas also has a sizeable production of potatoes from the Hereford area.

*37,395 truck loads.

*$727 million.

*330,487 acres.

758 shippers, wholesalers and businesses.

9. North Carolina. The Tar Heel state easily leads the nation in sweet potato shipments. It also has much smaller volume with mixed vegetables and apples, much of it being in the Western part of the state.

*34,305 truck loads.

*144,000 acres.

$520 million.

114 shippers, wholesalers and businesses.

10.  New York. The Empire state grows produce in virtually all geographical areas. Apples are biggest in the Hudson Valley, but also are grown in several other areas across the state. There are mixed vegetables, potatoes and onions in various areas.

*24,943 truck loads.

*230,000 acres.

*$672 million.

*797 shippers, wholesalers and businesses.

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Acquisition by Riveridge Produce Means It will Have 50% of MI Apple Volume

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Sparta, MICH.— Riveridge Produce Marketing, the largest supplier of fresh Michigan apples, has acquired the sales operation of Jack Brown Produce, increasing their volume to 50 percent of Michigan’s fresh apple crop. With the increase in volume and varietal availability, Riveridge will be the one-stop solution for retail partners on quality Michigan apples year-round.

In addition to consistent year-round product availability, the expanded sales organization will be positioned to service retailers with quality fruit, expanded varietals and pack to order solutions. Both organizations are supported with innovative, forward-thinking growers who have adapted to market needs, which have provided for the fruit in high demand today.

“Both Jack Brown Produce and Riveridge Produce have complimentary grower communities making this union a natural fit,” said John Schaefer, president, Jack Brown Produce. “We each have modern packing facilities and growers invested in the future, utilizing the latest growing techniques and moving forward on the varieties and strains that support today’s consumer preferences.”

The Jack Brown Produce packing operation adds to the seven Michigan facilities packing for Riveridge Produce today. The expanded operation will offer additional pack time during the critical fall time-frame, while providing retailers additional flexibility, and a continuity program on Michigan apples.  Sharing data and relationships, the two brands will be an all-encompassing source not just on fruit, but also marketing assets and analysis to help drive buying decisions. 

“With two strong, forward-thinking bases of growers, continued investments in new production and a consumer-driven varietal mix, we look to solidify our role as Michigan’s fruit specialists,” said Don Armock, President, Riveridge Produce Marketing, Inc. “This is an opportunity to continue to share knowledge across our grower base and marry producers and customers based on their needs.” 

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About Riveridge Produce Marketing

Riveridge Produce Marketing, Inc. is a vertically-integrated apple grower/packer/shipper/marketer headquartered in Sparta, Michigan, a unique growing region in West Michigan due in part  to the elevation, proximity to Lake Michigan and ideal soil conditions. The company represents one-half of Michigan’s fresh apple crop and is leading the way in food safety, new orchard technology and innovation in sales and marketing. In 2017, Riveridge expanded into cider with its own facility, Riveridge Cider Co.,  pressing and bottling fresh apple cider in blends, varietals and seasonal flavors. Additionally, Riveridge markets fresh apples for Sunrise Orchards located in Gays Mills, Wisconsin.

Michigan apples – grossing about $3300 to Dallas.

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Potato Shipments have Small Decline Last half of 2018

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Russets, which easily lead the spud category in volume, experienced a drop in potato shipments the last six months of 2018.

Although there was small increase in fresh potato sales during this period, the decline in russet volume dragged the overall fresh potato category down in volume.

Potatoes USA of Denver, CO, the nation’s potato marketing and research organization, reports fresh sales were up 1.3 percent, but shipments of russets, which make up two-thirds of the category, dropped 7.3 percent. That resulted to a decline of fresh potato volume of 4.3 percent. Overall fresh sales were $769.3 million, almost $1 million more than sales in the same quarter a year ago.

The average price-per pound of all varieties rose from 64 cents to 68 cents.

Smaller pack sizes saw a small decline in volume (although dollar sales for 1- to 4-pound packs rose 3.8percent), but the industry moved more 8-pound bags and in the bulk category. Eight-pound packs were up 4.6 percent in sales and 0.5 percent in volume. Bulk sales saw a 1.4 perent drop, with a volume increase of 0.8 percent.

According to the report, which uses data from IRI, fresh sales of yellow potatoes, which contribute 11.6 percent of the overall volume of varieties, were up 4.8 percent.

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Retail Fruit and Vegetables Prices are Expected to Increase this Year

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Grocery store food prices are increasing this year, according to projections by the USDA.

The USDA Economic Research Service forecasts the food-at-home consumer price index (CPI) to rise 1 to 2 percent in 2019. Though that’s higher than the 0 to 1 percent uptick estimated for 2018, the increase expected for 2019 would mark the 4th straight year of deflating or lower-than-average inflating retail food prices, the agency noted in its Food Price Outlook 2018-19 report. The gain also would be less than the 20-year historical average of 2.1 percent.

Product categories expected to see price increases this year include dairy products (+3% to +4%), fresh vegetables (+2.5% to +3.5%), fresh fruit (+2% to +3%), cereals and bakery products (+2% to +3%), beef and veal (+1% to +2%), poultry (+1% to +2%), fish and seafood (+0.25% to +1.25%), and sugars and sweets (0% to +1%).

The expected rise in dairy prices for 2019 comes after a flat to 1% decrease estimated for 2018, according to the USDA.

Food prices are on their way up at the grocery store this year, according to projections by the USDA.

The USDA Economic Research Service forecasts the food-at-home consumer price index (CPI) to rise 1% to 2% in 2019. Though that’s higher than the 0% to 1% uptick estimated for 2018, the increase expected for 2019 would mark the fourth straight year of deflating or lower-than-average inflating retail food prices, the agency noted in its Food Price Outlook 2018-19 report. The gain also would be less than the 20-year historical average of 2.1%.

Product categories likely to see price increases this year include dairy products (+3% to +4%), fresh vegetables (+2.5% to +3.5%), fresh fruit (+2% to +3%), cereals and bakery products (+2% to +3%), beef and veal (+1% to +2%), poultry (+1% to +2%), fish and seafood (+0.25% to +1.25%), and sugars and sweets (0% to +1%).

The expected rise in dairy prices for 2019 comes after a flat to 1% decrease estimated for 2018, according to the USDA.

“Milk production is expected to rise at a modest rate of 1.1% in 2018. Dairy exports have strengthened but are expected to be limited for the rest of the year due to recent tariffs imposed by Mexico and China,” the report said. “Domestic demand for most dairy products has been relatively weak in the first half of the year but is expected to recover in the second half of 2018.”

Egg prices — among the most volatile retail food prices due to changes in seasonal demand — are projected to inch up 1% or less in 2019 following an estimated 10% to 11% jump in 2018. The USDA said recent price hikes at the farm and wholesale levels indicate that retail egg prices could continue to rise over the next few months. That contrasts with 2017, when more egg-laying birds and a higher number of eggs per hen eased prices, the agency explained.

Food categories that may experience retail price decreases include fats and oils (-3% to -2%), pork (-0.75% to +0.25%), other meats (-0.25% to +0.75%), processed fruits and vegetables (-1% to 0%), and nonalcoholic beverages (-0.25% to +0.75%).

“In addition to commodity prices, prices for other factors of production may influence retail food prices in 2019,” the USDA said in the report. “Electricity and diesel costs, as well as many other costs associated with food production, transport, and retail sales, are expected to rise, placing upward pressure on prices.”

Meanwhile, the USDA expects food-away-from-home prices — food purchased at restaurants — to grow at a consistent rate this year, rising 2% to 3%, the same increase estimated for 2018.

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California Asparagus Shipments will Begin in March

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California asparagus shipments are looking favorable for a launch in March with healthy product predicted and growing demand for organic “grass” despite a decline in acreage.

For example, Greg Paul Produce Sales Inc. of Stockton, CA expects to be shipping its Delta Queen brand from the Central San Joaquin Valley from from mid-March to May. Shipments come from 500 to 1,000 acres.

Produce broker Jacobs, Malcolm & Burtt Inc. of San Ramon, CA reports a normal winter has set the stage for the big, healthy plants.
Cold temperatures kill pests and provide good chilling conditions, which allows asparagus ferns to mature. Timely and generous rainfall in the region this season has been very benefical.

The company’s 4 growers include one organic producer and harvest has been underway for a couple of weeks.

There are 820 acres in Fresno in the Central Valley and in San Joaquin County, which will be shipping at the same time as imports from Mexico and Peru.

Melissa’s/World Variety Produce Inc., Los Angeles, distributes conventional asparagus from May to September and the organic crop from May to July.

Devine Organics of Fresno, CA ships asparagus under the Double D Farms Organics brand, and has been shifting its 72 acres in Coalinga to organic due to increasing demand. Harvest will start in April.

The company is also planning to increase acreage, but hasn’t decided whether it will be in California or on its land in Mexico. It will be able to lower costs with a new irrigation system allowing valves to be turned on and off remotely if there is a leak.

Durst Organic Growers Inc. of Esparto, CA expects a small increase in volume this season because of newer plantings, and the company typically sells about 100,000 cartons a year. Last year the operation began harvesting in early February.

California asparagus acreage fell 60 percent from 2007-17 to 8,300 acres, according to California’s Department of Food and Agriculture. Production fell 41 percent from 2016-17.

Greg Paul Produce Sales Inc. report the No. 1 problem is the cost of labor.

Under a 2016 law, larger employers must now pay overtime to hourly workers after 9.5 hours, a threshold which will fall in subsequent years and eventually include smaller companies. Historically, overtime was paid after 10 hours.

Also this year, the hourly minimum wage rose to $12 for larger businesses; $11 for smaller ones. 

Finally, Mexican asparagus growers expanded production this year, growers and industry experts say, and are timing their crops to potentially compete with California growers in a price war growers say they can’t hope to win.

Last year, Greg Paul Sales was getting 57 cents to 71 cents per pound of asparagus — reflective of lower and lower prices discouraging California growers from replanting. The company believes the California asparagus industry is on the very of disappearing altogether.

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