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Mexican Grape Shipments Could be Up Over 25 Percent

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The Mexican grape harvest gets underway in early May.

Mexican grape growers expect to ship 22 million cartons of grapes this spring — up 25.6 percent from 2018.

Around 4 million cartons of grapes are expected to be shipped to the domestic Mexican market, which is in addition to the 22 million counted for export.

The total for Mexician grape shipments in 2018 was 16.4 million boxes. In 2017 that total was 21 million.

In 2018, there was unusual weather, and cold in March particularly playe havoc with the crop, which resulted in an irregular harvest schedule in 2018, depending on the weather impact on different Sonoran growing zones.

Heaviest early green grape and red Flame loadings should occur the last half of May to the first half of June.


Mid-season green seedless peak volume will occur during most of June.

Flames account for nearly 50 percent of all Mexican fresh grape shipments, with 10.6 million cartons forecast this year. This is up almost 33 percent from 7.1 million cases in 2018. In 2017, 10.1 million boxes of Flames were shipped.

Sugraone this season moves ahead of green grapes to have a projected 4.3 million cartons. This number was 4.4 million in 2017 and down to 3.1 million last year.

For the 2019 crop, green grape production is estimated to be 4 million cases. This is up 16.5 percent from a total 2018 pack out of 3.3 million. In 2017, green grape shipments from Mexico was 3.6 million.

Black grape loadings from Mexico has fallen for the third straight year. The 2019 estimate anticipates 1 million boxes. Black grape shipments in 2018 was 1.2 million, down from 1.3 million in 2017.

Red Globe volume also is predicted to be down for the third straight year, with 600,000 boxes forecast. Red Globes loadings this year are forecast to be off 3.1 percent from 2018 and well below the 688,000 boxes shipped in 2017.

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Construction Underway for Huge New York Greenhouse by Mastrondardi Produce

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Mastronardi Produce Ltd., of Kingsville, Ontario, Canada is building a 71.6-acre glass greenhouse for growing Backyard Farms brand tomatoes in Oneida, NY.

“This expansion allows us to meet the incredible loyal consumer and retailer demand for this brand,” Paul Mastronardi, president, CEO of Mastronardi Produce, said in a news release.  “It also ensures that all Northeasterners can enjoy what New Englanders have come to expect—fresh-from-the-vine Backyard Farms tomatoes delivered within hours.”


Founded in the 1940s, Mastronardi Produce is a large vertically integrated producer and distributor of greenhouse-grown produce, marketed under the Sunset and Backyard Farms brands.

The greenhouse will provide Northeasterners with better access to fresh-from-the-vine Backyard Farms tomatoes delivered within hours, Mastronardi said in the release.

The expansion is the first phase of the company’s ambitions for its locally grown Backyard Farms label, according to the company.

The greenhouse more than doubles Backyard Farms’ greenhouse growing acreage and increases Mastronardi Produce’s internal greenhouse network to seven locations nationwide, providing more than 4,000 acres of growing capacity.

New-York-grown Backyard Farms brand tomatoes are expected to be shipped by the fall of 2019, according to the release.

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Vidalia Onion Shipments are Set to begin April 22nd

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The packing date for the 2019 Vidalia onion season is set for 8 a.m. on Monday, April 22, according to The Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Vidalia Onion Committee.

Five to 6 million cartons are expected to be shipped this season.

Vidalia onion acreage in 2019 will hit a 10-year low, according to Bland Farms LLC of Glennville, GA. The least amount of acreage planted during the past 10 years was 10,500 acres — at least until this season when 9,262 have been planted. Last year 11,251 acres were planted.



Vidalia onions represent about 40 percent of the sweet onions shipped in the U.S. each season.

Vidalia onions are grown in parts of 20 southeastern Georgia counties by 80 registered growers.


Each year, the Vidalia Onion Advisory Panel, state agricultural scientists and the Department of Agriculture determine the pack date based on soil and weather conditions in South Georgia during the growing season to help avoid early season onions being picked before maturity and tend to have a high pungency, or hot taste. Onions shipped prior to April 22nd cannot legally be shipped as Vidalia onions.

This year, the Vidalia Onion Committee is launching “The Sweet Life,” a new marketing campaign to reach home cooks across the country. The campaign targets grocery shoppers who enjoy cooking and entertaining.

“The Sweet Life builds on our very successful marketing effort over the last two years that helped to raise the profile of the Vidalia onion among food connoisseurs, particularly millennials who set many of today’s consumer trends,” said Bland.  “Now we plan to focus on broader category of consumers who like to cook, entertain and use onions. The goal is to elevate the brand as a signifier of good taste and living well.”

The Vidalia trademark is owned by the state of Georgia because of the Vidalia Onion Act of 1986. To be considered a Vidalia onion, the vegetables must be cultivated in the south Georgia soil from a distinctive Granex seed and packed and sold after the official pack date each year, resulting in only the highest-quality onions reaching Vidalia fans each season.

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Import Update: Fewer Bananas are Imported, While Tomatoes Increase

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A moderate decline in volume has been reported for U.S. banana imports in 2018, while tomato imports are increasing, according the USDA.

U.S. imports of bananas totaled 4.2 million metric tons in 2018, off 4 percent from 2017. By value, imports of bananas totaled $1.91 billion in 2018, up 2 percent from 2017.

Guatemala was the leading supplier of bananas to the U.S. in 2018, accounting for 1.88 billion metric tons, down 5 percent from 2017. By value, imports of Guatemala bananas totaled $851.4 million, up 2 percent from 2017. Guatemala accounted for 45 percent of volume and value of total banana imports.

Other leading suppliers of bananas in 2018 to the U.S., by value and compared with last year, are:

  • Costa Rica: $399.9 million, down 10 percent;
  • Honduras: $218.5 million, down 1 percent;
  • Ecuador: $189.2 million, up 16 percent;
  • Mexico: $136.2 million, up 19 percent; and
  • Colombia: $104.8 million, up 15 percent.

Tomato Imports

In 2018 total U.S. tomato imports increased 9 percent in value and 4 percent in volume.

USDA trade statistics show that total U.S. tomato imports were $2.38 billion in 2018, up 9 percent from $2.17 billion in 2017.

Volume of tomato imports rose 4 percent in 2018, climbing from 1.79 million metric tons in 2017 to 1.86 million metric tons in 2018.

Mexico is the top supplier of imported tomatoes, accounting for 87 percent of the value of total U.S. tomato imports and 91 percent of imported tomato volume. By value, U.S. imports of Mexican tomatoes, at $2.06 billion, were up 12 percent from 2017.

The volume of U.S. imports of Mexican tomatoes totaled 1.69 million metric tons in 2018, up 5 percent from 1.61 million metric tons in 2017.

By comparison, U.S. imports of Canadian tomatoes declined 7 percent in value and 9 percent in volume in 2018. Canada is the number two supplier of imported tomatoes, accounting for 9 percent of imported tomato value and 8 percent of tomato volume.

The Dominican Republic and Guatemala are number three and four ranked tomato suppliers, but both represent less than 1 percent of value.

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Ready-to-Eat Food Purchase are Increasing, Study Shows

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Ready-to-eat convenience food sales over the last decade have increased, according to a new survey.

The USDA’s Flexible Consumer behavior Survey reports consumers in 2015-16 reported purchases of 2.4 ready-to-eat foods in the past 30 days, up more than 25 percent from 2007-08, when consumers reported consuming 1.9 ready-to-eat foods in the same period.

Eating out

The USDA survey found for 2015-16, about 89 percent of adults bought food from a fast-food restaurant and 90 percent of adults ate at a sit-down restaurant in the past 12 months.

The 2015-16 survey related consumers reported eating 3.6 food away from home meals in the last week, down slightly from 4 food-away-from-home meals reported in the same period in 2007-08.

For both 2007-08 and 2015-16, less than half of food-away-from-home meals were from a fast-food restaurant.

The percentage of adults who saw nutrition information on a fast-food restaurant menu increased from 20 percent in 2007-08 to 42 percent in 2015-16. The percentage of adults who saw nutrition information on a sit-down restaurant menu increased from 16 to 27 percent.

However, the percentage of adults who used nutrition information on a fast-food restaurant menu was 41 percent in 2015-16, up only 1 percent from 2007-08. The number of adults who used nutrition information on a sit-down restaurant menu actually declined, from 53 percent in 2007-08 to 43 percent in 2015-16.


The survey found that the MyPlate guide to support healthy eating is not widely known by consumers.

The survey found 24 percent of adults reported that they had heard of MyPlate in 2015-16, up from 20 percent in 2013-14. Among those who heard of MyPlate, the survey found the percentage of adults who had tried to follow the recommendations in the MyPlate plan remained stable at 35 percent over these two time periods.

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Florida Sweet Corn Shipments Running Ahead of Last Season

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Eastern sweet corn shippers are optimistic about the coming crops following good growing conditions.

Florida is the nation’s leading sweet corn shipper in early spring. The Sunshine state shipped more volume as of March 9 than last year at the same time: 145.3 million pounds, compared to 136 million pounds in 2018, according to the USDA.

Nationally, 259.8 million pounds of corn were shipped this season through March 9, which is 23.3 million fewer pounds at the same point last season, which was at 283.1 million.

Scotlynn Sweet Pac Growers of Belle Glade, FL reports an excellent sweet corn crop spurred by great weather that is leading to good volume and supplies.

The company ships corn initially out of Belle Glade, then Bainbridge, GA., and finishes with Vittoria, Ontario.


Belle Glade sweet corn shipments run from mid-March to June 1st.

Scotlynn’s Georgia sweet corn shipments will be available from May 15 until July 15, and from Vittoria, availability runs from July 15 until September 5.

Duda Farm Fresh Foods of Oviedo, FL plans on similar volumes as in recent years from its winter and spring corn seasons in South Florida, followed by its short Georgia season. 

After Duda’s Florida winter corn shipments finish at the end of March, spring corn is available the first week of April through end of May. The season winds down with Georgia’s quick harvest from late May to early June.


Turek Farms of King Ferry, NY is working with Florida and Georgia growers from SM Jones and Co. to ship corn the year-round. Sales are handled by Cayuga Produce Inc of King Ferry. The company ships New York sweet corn from mid-July through early October.

Florida vegetables – grossing about $2600 to New York City.

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South Texas Grapefruit, Orange Shipments Expected Well into May

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Citrus shipments for the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas are expected to continue through mid- to late May.

Wonderful Citrus, with offices in California and South Texas should be shipping Texas grapefruit and Texas oranges through May this season.

At Texas Citrus Mutual of Mission, about 40 percent of its grapefruit and 75 percent of its late oranges remained to be shipped as of March 25. 


Total Texas grapefruit shipments forecast by the USDA stand at 6.2 million boxes for the 2018-19 season, up from 4.8 million boxes in 2017-18.

South Texas Organics of Mission, said it should finish with it’s organic valencia orange shipments as well as its Rio Star grapefruit the last half of April.


The USDA reports through the middle of March season-to-date domestic shipments of Texas grapefruit totaled 134.7 million pounds, down from 172.3 million pounds a year ago. Total shipments last season were 205.6 million pounds.

Texas export shipments of grapefruit totaled 10.1 million pounds by mid-March, down from 14.6 million pounds a year ago. Total grapefruit export shipments a year ago were 15.2 million pounds.

Texas Orange Shipments

Texas orange shipments through mid-March were 69.6 million pounds, off from 99.2 million pounds at the same time a year ago. 

Total Texas orange shipments last season totaled 121.9 million pounds, the USDA reports.

In December, the USDA predicted Texas all-orange output for 2018-19 at 2.4 million boxes, up from 1.88 million boxes in the 2017-18 season.

 

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Women are Safer Truck Drivers Than Men, Study Reports

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Research shows women truck drivers are safer truck drivers than men, at least according the conclusion of the American Transportation Research Institute’s Crash Predictor Model. The model statistically estimates the likelihood of future crash involvement based on specific truck driving behaviors, according to a news release.

Published in 2018, the 62-page report, draws data from over 435,000 U.S. truck drivers over a 2-year time period to reveal nearly a dozen behaviors that raise a driver’s risk of being involved in a future truck crash by more than 50 pecent.
Female truck drivers were safer than male counterparts in every statistically significant safety behavior and men were 20 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than women, the study reports.

“ATRI’s Crash Predictor Model is a key input to our driver hiring and training practices,” John Prewitt, president of Tideport Distributing Inc., said in the release. 

“Safety is our first concern and by understanding how driver histories relate to future crash probability, we can develop targeted solutions for minimizing safety risks.”

Other key findings from the report, according to the release, are:

  • The top 2 behaviors for predicting future crash involvement, each with more than 100 percent increased likelihood of a future crash, are a reckless driving violation and a failure to yield right of way violation;
  • Prior crash involvement continues to have a statistically significant relationship to future crash involvement with a 74 percent increase of the likelihood of being in a future crash; and
  • Other statistically significant predictors of future crash involvement including convictions for improper lane/location, reckless/careless/inattentive/negligent driving, and improper or erratic lane change.

The report also provides a list of states that have proven track records of maximizing their enforcement resources while minimizing their share of the nation’s truck crashes.  

Indiana tops that list, followed by New Mexico, Washington, California and Maryland, according to the release.

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Small Increase in Argentina Lemon Exports to the U.S. is Predicted

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Argentina lemon exporters are taking a cautious approach in their second year exporting to the U.S. market after a long absence.

About 10 lemon exporters resumed lemon exports to the U.S. after a 17-year absence, and in their second season are planning to have more volume.

Europe is the biggest market for Argentina’s lemons, with arrivals mostly in Spain, the Netherlands and Italy.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report on Argentina lemons notes fresh lemon production for the marketing year 2018-19 is forecast up to 1.6 million metric tons, an increase from 1.5 million metric tons in 2017-18. Of that, lemon exports to all countries are estimated at 290,000 metric tons, up from 265,000 metric tons in 2017-18 and 241,000 metric tons in 2016-17.


The U.S. received only a small fraction of Argentina’s lemon exports last year.

According to the USDA report, U.S. imports of Argentina lemons in 2018 were 5.9 million pounds in 2018, or about 2,681 metric tons. Arrivals of Argentina lemons arrived by boat at Philadelphia from May through August and into Tampa in June, according to the USDA.

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Chilean Fruit Import Season in a Transitional Stage

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These cabover tractors pulling reefer trailers were photographed in 1992 at a Chilean port during a visit to that country by Bill Martin.

This is a transitional season for Chilean fruit as items such as peaches and nectarines are wrapping up, while others such as kiwifruit will soon be ramping up.

However, for the time being Chilean table grapes remain the focus of fruit imports from this South American country. Strong volumes of Chilean table grapes will continue arriving at American ports through April. Over 26 million cases of Chilean grapes were shipped to the United States through March 17th.

There have been heavy arrivals, although overall volume is now starting to slowly decrease. There are the more traditional varieties such as Crimsons, Flames and Thompson Seedless. However, there is increasing volumes of proprietary and newer varieties like Timco, Sweet Celebration and Jack’s Salute.

While peach and nectarine volumes are in a seasonal decline, there were still strong volumes of plums shipped in mid-March from Chilean ports, resulting in good volumes arriving at U.S. ports well into April.

While Chilean kiwifruit have been exported to the U.S. for many years, volume is now to the point where the Chilean Kiwifruit Committee plans marketing campaign for the first time in the United States.

Chilean kiwi exports begin in April with good volume occurring at U.S. ports by late May.

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