Author Archive

Spirit of the American Trucker

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Art Czajkowski

This appeared in April 2020 10-4 Magazine. Who would think we would end up like this… There is connection between us being lazy and blind and the current state of affair….
We have been told that manufacturing is out of style. We have been told we can import produce from abroad. We have been told our trucks are bad for the air we breathe. We have been told diesel fumes will bring the end of the human race. We have been told that professional drivers, with their blood-shot eyes, are misfits and undesirables. We have been told automated trucks are the only way to go. We have been told all these lies. The truth is this – if it weren’t for this tired and humiliated truck driver (and so many others) that people flip the bird at for staying in the left lane just a little longer so he doesn’t cut off someone’s mother or wife messaging about empty shelves, we would be living in apocalyptic hell already now. But we are not – yet – because his old school (banned) diesel engine relentlessly pulls that cool box back and forth across the country, bringing the Midwest fresh produce from California and then meat back in a 28-hour straight shot. And, that dedicated driver is not even asking for a raise on the rate (even though all truckers deserve it) – he is just asking you to stay positive and strong and watch out for your elderly neighbors. We will be okay if we stick together and do the right thing. We will git ‘er dun because THAT is the Spirit of the American Trucker! God Bless.”

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California Avocado Shipments Should be Up 70% from 2019

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California avocado shipments should experience a huge rebound this year with 369 million pounds forecast. This is about a 70 percent increase over 2019.

Still, California is a small player compared to the volume out of Mexico. While some California avocados are shipped to the East Coast, the vast amount goes to markets in the Western states. Last year, with a small crop, most destinations were to markets in California.

The California Avocado Commission of Irvine reports early-season volume has slightly exceeded projections. Peak loadings should occur from April through July and continue through Labor Day.

Some growers started harvesting in mid January due to strong markets and their big crops, with others starting in February.

Index Fresh Inc. of Riverside, CA plans to have good volume into September.

Calavo Growers Inc. of Santa Paula, CA also had an early start. Two years ago the company was hit harder than most by fires in groves as well as a heat wave.

Another reason California growers have started shipping sooner was due less volume this year from Mexico.

Mission Produce Inc. of Oxnard, CA started a month earlier this season than originally planned.

Eco Farms of Temecula, CA got off to a slow start in January, but loadings picked up in February.

Henry Avocado Corp. of Escondido, CA was shipping light volume in February, but shipments picked up in March, and the company will be full capacity from April to July, before starting to taper off in August.

The company has some spring and summer fruit going to customers in the East, but most of its fruit stays on the West Coast.

The Giumarra Cos. of Los Angeles has two California packinghouses, one in Escondido and one in Ventura and is shipping from both facilities.

Southern California avocados and citrus – grossing about $6400 to New York City.

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Take Care by Stocking Up on Immune-Boosting Fruits and Vegetables

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Grower-Shipper Association of Central California

This pandemic is a learning experience for all of us on how to stay healthy and avoid illness.

Making informed decisions around COVID-19 is critically important. Taking the responsible route of practicing good hygiene and limiting social contact are sound practices we all must take seriously. 

What will help our body’s vital line of defense to an invading virus? A good diet, with lots of dark green, leafy vegetables and berries. When going to the grocery store or shopping online don’t forget to prioritize healthy foods that maintain a strong immune system and gut health.  But don’t just take our word for it. Listen to the advice from the experts, such as Elizabeth Bradley, MD, a clinical nutritionist and the medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, who in a recent article, Facts (and Myths) About Boosting Your Immune System, highlights how diet plays a role in supporting the immune system.

Fresh fruits and veggies are going to support your immune system and gut health through this challenging time. So, for your next delivered grocery store order or on your next trip to your neighborhood market, remember to stock up on fresh produce to keep your immune system strong and healthy.

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20% Crash in Mexican Grape Shipments Forecast this Season

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A 20 percent crash in Mexican grape shipments are predicted this season.

The 2020 estimate for Mexican grapes is 19.7 million 19-pound boxes, about 3.9 million boxes down (20 percent) from a year ago of 23.6 million boxes. That crop, however, was significantly higher than the 2018 production of 16.37 million boxes, so forecasters are saying there will still be good volume.

Mexican grape shipments to the U.S. will start in mid-May, lasting into early July. The season is expected to start earlier than in 2019, with the red Flame seedless being in good volume from late May to late June. Mid-season green grapes loadings will be in good volume from early June to early July, while black seedless best movement is expected from late May to late June.

Green perlette grape volume is hit hard by a freeze and 2020 volume is predicted at 800,000 boxes, less than half of the 1.7 million box output last season.

Early-season Mexican grape volume is expected to be about 2.8 million boxes, up slightly from 2.6 million boxes a year ago.

Red seedless loadings for 2020 is forecast at 8.65 million boxes, off 19 percent from last year’s total of 10.7 million boxes; 

Mid-season green variety output is estimated at 4.15 million boxes, down 18 percent from 5.08 million boxes a year ago;

Red globe production is 300,000 boxes, down from 306,000 boxes last year;

Black seedless is forecast at 1.5 million boxes, down 22 percent from 1.92 million boxes in 2019; and

Other grape varieties are forecast at 1.5 million boxes, up slightly from 1.2 million boxes last year.

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Crystal Valley Partners with Superior Berries on Georgia Blueberries

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MIAMI, FLA. – Crystal Valley Foods (Crystal Valley) has announced that it has partnered with Superior Berries and will begin shipping Georgia-grown blueberries under both the Crystal Valley and Superior Berries labels beginning this season. The first shipments will begin in April and will be available through the end of May.

Superior Berries, whose parent company is Superior Pine Products, started producing berries in 2003. Today the company has over 200 acres in Fargo, Georgia with plans to expand an estimated 100 acres in the next year. They grow and hand pick primarily Southern Highbush blueberries including Meadowlark, Patricia, Kee Crisp, Indigo Crisp, Farthing and Legacy varieties.

Crystal Valley markets blueberries year-round.

About Crystal Valley Foods

Founded in 1994, Crystal Valley Foods is a leading grower and importer of top quality produce from Central and South America and the United States. With offices and facilities in Miami and Los Angeles, the company is one of the largest importers and distributors of asparagus in the USA. Its extensive product line also includes baby vegetables, peas, beans, berries, baby lettuces, peppers and other specialty crops.

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March Madness Will Pass – What’s Next?

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By Mark Montague

March 19, 2020

As I write this, spot market rates and demand are peaking, hitting numbers reminiscent of good times during 2018.  Of course, it’s primarily due to Coronavirus induced buying as consumers shift from restaurants and entertainment to in home consumption of food & necessities.  While current patterns look familiar, with the Southeast region leading the way, I thought I’d look a little deeper.

The Southeast region has been cited by DAT and others as the strongest current region.  A glance at Hot Market Maps confirms this – here’s what’s unusual:  It’s not Atlanta as the leading market, it’s Memphis.  Indeed, Memphis sits as the crossroads of several regions including the South Central (Dallas, Houston), Southeast (Atlanta, Charlotte), and Midwest (Chicago, Columbus).  When distribution centers in those markets run tight on supplies, they turn to Memphis.  It’s also the hub of Fedex and a lot of urgent freight gets routed through Memphis.

Memphis had load-to-truck ratios hitting 8.2 on 3/10 and again on 3/16, these are almost unheard-of ratios for van freight.  Meanwhile Los Angeles crested at 4.1 on 3/13 as Asian imports return to the West Coast.  Atlanta did hit 5.3 on 3/13 but Dallas was only at 3.3.  For context, I consider 2.5 load posts per truck to be a “balanced” van market.  Long study of ratios says that’s the normal amount of ‘inflation’ in posting numbers.

Switching to regional freight matrix, which has one day rates in addition to 7-day and 15-day look-ups, I found that 7-day rates are generally higher than 15-day rates, but one day rates (Monday, 3/16) were somewhat lower, except on freight from the Southeast region to South Georgia-Florida, which rose from $2.65/mile on average to $2.71/mile.  This matrix compiles all trips of at least 150 miles into its averages.

So, sooner or later most everyone will be stocked up and wanting to cut contact with fellow humans i.e. social distancing.  Monday’s and Tuesday’s numbers suggest there will be ongoing craziness this week but that the peak may have already arrived, watch for ratios starting to go lower.  [Update: 3/18 looks like van peaked, with numbers falling off sharply the next week.]  The impact on freight rates will likely be mixed as FEMA and other emergency supplies will continue to move.  Volumes are important but urgent freight also demands higher prices.  Then there is the risk factor for older drivers, the majority of the workforce.  If supply of truck decreases commensurate with supply of loads, then rates could stay elevated.

As far as the Coronavirus impact on the freight marketplace – I can’t remember another time in recent history like this, as I wasn’t around in 1918.  I’ve just been in the industry since 1981.  Back in 1973, specifically 12/19/1973, Johnny Carson made a joke during his monologue about there being a nationwide toilet paper shortage – this sparked a panic and we did have a shortage of the tissue for about a week!  That’s the power of the media.

Call for Infrastructure Bill

At some point, freight volumes will drop sharply, a recession is coming unless we get a strong economic stimulus bill [Ed. – We got a Stimulus bill but 2Q numbers will still be horrendous].  This is where the trucking industry, backbone of commerce needs to have a united voice.  We need an infrastructure bill to replace outdated highways and deteriorating bridges and other critical needs at ports.

Both parties have made initiatives in the past year on the topic of infrastructure.  The big hold-up appears to be how to fund the bill and what ratio the Federal government is willing to pay.  Back in the Eisenhower years, the interstate highway system got built with 90-10 money, i.e. the Federal government funded 90% of the cost and the states just 10%.  President Trump proposed a mostly private sector $1.5 trillion dollar plan in the spring of 2019, that had the Federal share at just 20%.  The Democrats countered early this year with an 80-20 plan, but stalled on how to finance the package. 

Previously, discussions of a Federal tax hike on the price of motor fuels has been a non-starter.  We haven’t had a tax increase since 1993, but it’s time to find a funding mechanism and get a spending bill in place for the back half of 2020.  We are going to need it to pull out of the economic hit we are certain to take in the 2nd quarter.  If you take down time during the current crisis, take time to write your Congress folks as I’m sure we all understand the critical importance of strong infrastructure to keep commerce flowing.

Please stay safe out there.  A big “Thank You” to truckers continuing to haul goods, despite increased health risks.  Elsewhere I’ve commented on the need for market discipline and each trucker needs to carefully consider the offer versus waiting for the right load.  They will be out there and DAT tools can help you find them.


Mark Montague, worked for DAT Solutions from 2009-2019, advising on the design of the RateView pricing tool.  Prior to joining DAT, Mark worked in transportation and logistics, twice holding the position of General Manager of trucking operations.  He earned an MBA in transportation management in 1981 from Indiana University.

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California Spring Produce Shipments Shaping Up to Be Fairly Normal

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California spring produce shipments should be good as growers and shippers expect plentiful supplies due to favorable growing conditions.

A wide range of vegetables are shipped by Boskovich Fresh Food Group of Oxnard, CA ranging from cabbages, Chinese mix and bunched items such as parsley, cilantro and spinach.

The company grows celery in Oxnard from November through June, when the season transitions to Santa Maria.

Boskovich is wrapping up shipments of head and leaf lettuce in Yuma, AZ., and will move to Santa Maria in early April.

Other items such as radishes and beets will switch from Mexico to Oxnard in mid-April.

The company expects good volume for most items for Easter, April 12.

Five Crowns Marketing of Brawley, CA is the state’s largest shipper of sweet corn, and weather has been ideal. The operation ships sweet corn year around, starting in Brawley in April, then moving to Coachella in May, followed by Mendota, Tracy, Arizona, and Washington.

Most recently, the company has been sourcing from Sinaloa, Mexico.

Five Crowns will begin shipping cantaloupe in early May, followed by variety melons and honeydew around May 10 – 15. The company also will have seedless watermelons from Arizona starting in early June with big volume in time for the 4th of July. After that, watermelon shipments will move to Mendota and Tracy before transitioning to Mexico for the winter.

Sunnyside Packing Co. of Selma, CA has eggplant, bell peppers, soft squash, hard squash and a few green beans and a small onion program.

Ventura County vegetables and strawberries – grossing about $7200 to New York City.

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Florida Spring Vegetable Shipments Gearing Up in April

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Strong Florida produce shipments this spring are expected due to favorable growing conditions.

Tomatoes, strawberries and cabbage were the Florida commodities with the highest volume during the week of Feb. 16, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Increases in vegetable shipments started in mid February for items such as
avocados, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, bell peppers, other peppers, radishes, squash, strawberries and round tomatoes.

These products were joining others that already had good volume. At that time Florida accounted for 37 percent of U.S. tomatoes shipments with 49 percent for strawberries and 39 percent of cabbage.

West Coast Tomato Shippers LLC of Palmetto, FL was having an excellent season in recent months due to fewer plants by other Florida growers, plus Mexican tomato volume also was down. The company will be shipping tomatoes into early June.

Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC of Plant City, FL is just finishing its strawberry season and now has blueberries, which will be shipped through May.

Utopia Packing LLC, a division of Utopia Farms, Myakka City, Fla., will get into its main volume with cucumbers and bell peppers in April.

Seald Sweet International of Vero Beach, FL is shipping fresh valencia oranges through May and then ship out of storage through June.

Brooks Tropicals Inc. of Homestead, FL is in a seasonal lull as the
company’s Florida-grown Slimcado tropical avocados were winding down, with summer shipments set to start in June. Dragon fruit also will be available in June and passion fruit in July.

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Veg-Fresh Farms to Market Redlands Foothill’s Citrus

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A partnership has been formed between Veg-Fresh Farms of Corona, CA and citrus grower-packer Redlands Foothill Groves, allowing Veg-Fresh to ship citrus the year-round.

Based in Redlands, CA, the citrus cooperative has over 80 growers of navels, Valencias, grapefruits and lemons, which are packed in the last operating packinghouse in San Bernardino County, according to a news release.

“In addition, being located just 30 miles from our Corona facility, it provides our customers the logistic advantage that we have found so valuable being located in the Inland Empire,” Veg-Fresh managing partner Dino Cancellieri Jr. said in the release.

The partnership will expand retail and foodservice opportunities, Veg-Fresh Farms citrus director Jacob Garcia said, referring to the 96-year-old Redlands Foothill Groves as a “storied packinghouse” that has continued to invest in fruit-grading technologies to improve packing.

Veg-Fresh packs under the Veg-Fresh Farms, Crystal Cove Berry Farms and Good Life Organic labels.

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Live Oak Farms to Ship Coachella Valley Bell Peppers

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Le Grand, California — Live Oak Farms adds to its Bell Pepper Program this spring with supplies starting from mid-April, as the Le Grand-based family-owned farming operation adds Green and Red Bell Peppers from the Coachella Valley to its production network.

The addition of Coachella and Southern San Joaquin Valley production in late-May will enable Live Oak to meet the needs of its customer base better. “Our customers have been asking for Live Oak to expand our production window, and we’re pleased to announce that Live Oak’s commitment to excellence in product quality and service is coming to Coachella this year,” said Donna Vaughan, Live Oak Partner, and salesperson.

Live Oak’s Bell Pepper program had previously been limited to a late June to October window. With the additional acreage across new growing regions, Live Oak’s California program ensures supplies through the end of the year, with acreage in Coachella and Bakersfield joining the established production in Merced and Santa Clara Counties.

Live Oak Chief Operating Officer Ed Beckman said, “Live Oak embarked on the expansion of our existing Bell Pepper program in 2018, with the installation of one of the most advanced technology packing lines in North America. We’re now complementing our growth in Central California with an expanded production window supported by an aggressive product development program that works closely with seed companies and other technology providers to differentiate Live Oak in the marketplace.”

The program for the coming spring includes Green and Elongated Red Bell Peppers, including DRC packs to order. The January plantings will allow for the first product to be shipped in April, with Red Bells to follow in May.

Live Oak Farms is now in its 91st year and includes both third and fourth generation family members in its day to day operations. The company also grows tomatoes and roma tomatoes from June through Late October and added an upscale Jalapeno pepper to its specialty pepper line in 2018.

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