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Grapefruit, Other Crops in Rio Grande Valley Devastated by Freeze

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Following a week of freezing temperatures, vegetable and
citrus farmers across Texas are assessing the, with widespread losses.

During the weekend of February 19-29, Texas Citrus Mutual, reports losing
55% of grapefruit crops because of the freeze. Grapefruit and other Crops in
Rio Grande Valley were devastated by the arctic blast, with citrus industry
losses estimated to be at least $300 million.

Out of more than 40 vegetable crops grown in the southern Rio Grande Valley,
only three are hopeful to survive, onions, cabbage, and potatoes.

Most South Texas citrus is shipped from September through May. However, the
reason this season is wiped out, and little to no citrus production will occur
during the 2021-2022 season.

There has been long-term damage due to the ice storm, which resulted in
numerous trees dying or being seriously damaged.

Grapefruit will be affected most because Texas is an important supplier.
Oranges are now a big a crop in Texas and are primarily grown in Florida and
California.

There
also was 200 or so acres of lemons and limes produced in the Rio Grande Valley
which were completely destroyed

 

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Wish Farms Expands Berry Operation to Oxnard

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International grower and year-round marketer of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, Wish Farms, headquartered in Plant City FL, is pleased to announce that it has established a growing operation in Oxnard, CA.

“This is a move that aligns well with our strategy of smart, controlled growth,” said James Peterson, Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

With its first season in Oxnard underway, Wish Farms began harvesting strawberries mid-January and expects volume to flow into May.

Darwin Reich, Director of California Operations: “The Frontera will be our exclusive variety for Oxnard. Quality and volume has proven favorable and in-line with our expectations.”

With this addition, the company now has operations in the three major strawberry growing regions of California: Salinas, Santa Maria and Oxnard.

Peterson: “By expanding our footprint to this third region, it solidifies our position as a California grower, streamlines supply and opens the door for a more consistent brand presence west of the Mississippi.”

About Wish Farms

Founded in 1922, Wish Farms is a fourth-generation, family operated company. As a year-round supplier of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, it grows both conventional and organic varieties. 

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Exports of Mexican Avocados Reveal Record Rise

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During the past decade Mexican avocado exports have tripled, according to the Mexican news source El Economista.

The site reports total Mexican avocado exports for January to November 2020 topped over 1.2 million metric tons (MT). This is a significant rise from the 369,000MT registered for all of 2010 and, based on data from the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, represents a record increase of 6.3 percent over the previous year.

In 2020, though, Mexican foreign sales of avocado fell 7.4 percent to about $2.7 billion from January to November. Most avocados sold in the United States are imported from other countries, particularly Mexico.

For example, in 2018, 76 percent of national avocado consumption was imported from Mexico. Since then, the US Hass avocado industry has grown, reaching a total market value of $ 6.5 billion in 2019.

The USDA has placed the compound annual growth rate for total avocado consumption between 2008 and 2018 at 9.4 percent, rising from 1.1 billion pounds to 2.6 billion pounds. Contributing to this growth were factors such as an increased interest in healthy eating and foods high in nutrients.

Demographic changes also played a part according to El Economista, with 75 percent of Hispanic households purchasing avocados. The US Hass avocado market is projected to continue its growth with an expected 5.5 percent annual increase between 2019 and 2023.

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Organic Produce Retail Sales on Rise, but Not Necessarily Due to COVID

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Noticeable gains during the pandemic for retail sales of organic produce have experienced , but it is not necessarily due to the public’s desire to eat healthier.

Category Partners LLC of Idaho Falls, ID has observed the sales increase, which also has been experienced by conventional fruit and vegetables. This may be more the result of shutdowns of other out-of-home choices for purchasing produce.

Category Partners contends organic produce was carrying a slightly higher growth rate than conventional prior to the pandemic and this has remained mostly consistent.

It is hard to say whether consumers are choosing organic fruit and vegetables because they may be perceived to be more healthful than conventional, the company notes. However, organic produce does come with a health perception that often is cited by users as a reason they buy it.

The main reason organic consumers give for buying organic produce is the perceived healthfulness of the product, the firm notes, so it is better for you from a nutrition standpoint, and it has lower levels of pesticide residues than conventional.

Sustainability also comes into play for younger consumers.

The price premium over conventional produce is the primary reason consumers give for not purchasing organic produce.

Shoppers are unlikely to purchase items if the price differential between organic and conventional is too great where they feel they can’t afford organic fruit and vegetables.

Accessibility and occasionally quality are other factors than may affect purchasing decisions.

Bananas are far easily the No. 1-selling organic item in the produce department, followed by carrots and apples.

It is believed bananas lead the pack in large part because they have among the smallest price premiums in the produce department between conventional and organic.

The price differences between organic and conventional vary by commodity.

The per-pound price difference between conventional and organic bananas is 13 cents, the firm reports. The difference for carrots is 38 cents and for apples, 62 cents.

On average, organic item are about double the cost versus a conventional product. In the future the gap is expected to narrow.

From a dollar standpoint, organic packaged salads lead the list, followed by strawberries and apples.

Bananas are No. 8 in dollar sales and carrots come in at No. 7.

Packaged salads have the second-highest price variance between conventional and organic — about an 80% price premium.

The 50% to 60% price premium range is where you see the items that are really driving the volume. Moving outside of that, you can may generate dollars, but you’re going to experience loss of volume.

As far as packaging, the trend away from packaged produce apparently has been disrupted by the pandemic. The long-term trend among consumers, especially younger consumers, seems to be away from plastic packaging.

However, packages that are proliferating, like the gusseted pouch bags, are having tremendous success with consumers.

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Chilean Grape Forecast Down 25%; Peruvian Shipments Show Big Increase

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Chilean grapes will be down 25 percent this season following damaging rains a few weeks ago, according to importer/exporter Vanguard Direct, LLC. of Issaquah, WA.

If this estimate is correct it would be 10 percent less than the 35 percent estimated two weeks ago by the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association.

Expectations are now for exports of 65 million boxes, compared to original forecasts of 85 million boxes, with mid-season varieties most heavily damaged.

The development comes during the first season in years in which Chile was expecting an increase over the previous season in its total grape volume.

Peru

The situation is very different in Peru, which by week 5 had shipped 48 million boxes, 12 million more than at the same time in the 2019-20 season.

Peru is now projecting a total crop of 52-54 million boxes representing a 12 percent increase.

Vanguard points out 16 million boxes of Peruvian green seedless grapes have been shipped season to date, which is up 31% over last season. Sweet Globes are up 48% more than last season representing 60% of the total green seedless. The green seedless variety showing the largest decrease from last year has been Sugraone with 30% less shipments than last year.

Meanwhile, 12 million boxes of Peruvian red seedless have been shipped season to date, which is up 13% over last season. The varieties with the most significant increases are Allison Reds at 141% and Sweet Celebrations with an increase of 51%.

Ica has shipped thus far 14 million boxes of table grapes and is predicted to ship approximately an additional 12 million boxes over February and March. Overall, the Ica crop is down 2%.

Vanguard notes Peru and Chilean grape demand is strong in Mexico, and increasing in Canada, the U.S., and Asia with California completing its storage season.

It’s been extremely difficult to get containers in and out of port due to congestion and delays.

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Genetically Modified Tomatoes Could be Alternative for Parkinson’s Patients

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A genetically modified tomato enriched with the Parkinson’s disease drug L-DOPA has been produced by scientists at the UK-based John Innes Centre.

L-DOPA is used to treat Parkinson’s by compensating for dopamine, which is depleted in patients with the disease. The drug is made from tyrosine, an amino acid found in many foods. While it’s most commonly produced chemically, this version can cause unpleasant side effects.

Natural sources exist as well, but only a few plants contain measurable quantities, primarily in their seeds. These likewise can have negative effects on Parkinson’s patients due to other characteristics of the plant. The velvet bean, for example, is the most studied source, containing up to 10% L-DOPA in its seeds.

However, the bean itself causes elevated levels of tryptamines which can cause hallucinations. Using tomato plants as a natural source of L-DOPA could have the benefit of providing an alternative to those who experience adverse reactions, such as nausea or behavioral issues when taking the chemically synthesized version.

It may also have the impact of creating an affordable new source of this medication, particularly in developing nations where access to pharmaceutical drugs is limited.

A team at the research facility modified the fruit by introducing a gene found in beetroots responsible for the synthesis of L-DOPA. They inserted a gene encoding a tyrosinase, an enzyme that uses tyrosine to build molecules such as L-DOPA. This brought up the level of L-DOPA specifically in the fruit part of the plant and led to higher yields than those associated with L-DOPA production in the whole plant.

Tomatoes in particular were chosen to be modified with the drug as they are a widely cultivated crop and can be used for scaled-up production, potentially becoming a standardized natural source. The levels of L-Dopa achieved in the genetically modified tomatoes, 150mg per kg, were comparable to those observed in other L-DOPA accumulating plants without the drawbacks.

The goal from here is to create a production pipeline where L-DOPA is extracted from the tomatoes and purified into the pharmaceutical product.

“The idea is that you can grow tomatoes with relatively little infrastructure. As GMOs (genetically modified organisms) you could grow them in screen houses, controlled environments with very narrow meshes, so you would not have pollen escape through insects,” explained Professor Cathie Martin, a fellow of the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) and corresponding author of the study. “Then you could scale up at a relatively low cost. Local industry could prepare L-DOPA from tomatoes because it’s soluble and you can do extractions. Then you could make a purified product relatively low tech which could be dispensed locally.

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A Roundup of Winter Produce Shipments from Arizona and Texas

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It’s been a miserable two weeks in much of America with horrendous weather. Trucking is difficult enough without the record breaking low temperatures, snow and ice. Hang in there another month and spring will be here, with warmer weather and increasing volumes of fresh produce.

Here is a glimpse at potential loading opportunities from two of the most active states.

Texas

Thanks to imports of vegetables and tropical fruits from Mexico, the Lower Rio Grande Valley is one of the best shots at getting loaded.

The city of McAllen has over 200 produce companies such as Valley Fresh Produce Inc., Tricar Sales Inc. and Star Produce.

There are 1750 truckloads of avocados crossing the border from Mexico each week. Other leading volume items range from limes, to watermelons, broccoli, cucumbers, bell peppers, strawberries and tomatoes.

Last week South Texas produce companies were experiencing power outages along with much of the rest of the state. Use of generators was common among produce warehouses. Damage to vegetable and citrus crops are being assessed in the Lower Rio Grande Valley due to freezing temperatures. However, domestic volume pales in comparison to Mexican imports.

Arizona

The other major crossing for Mexican imports it at Nogales, which has nearly 200 produce companies such as Frank’s Distributing of Produce LLC and The Sykes Co.

Mixed loads often requiring multiple picks at various warehouses (similar to McAllen) is pretty much standard procedure here.

Heaviest volume may be with tomatoes led by vine ripes with lesser amounts of grapes and plums averaging about 1150 truck loads a week. There’s also good volume with squash led by zucchini, along with a half a dozen other varieties and totaling over 750 truckloads weekly.

Other available items range from bell peppers (750 truckloads a week) to cucumbers, and watermelon, among others.

In Yuma, AZ companies such as D’Arrigo Bros. of California and Growers Express LLC are shipping lettuce and other vegetables. All together, various Yuma shippers are loading about 400 truckloads weekly of head lettuce and romaine.

Truck rates from Nogales have been all over the board – grossing from $5000 to $7000 to Chicago.

Yuma rates are up generally but not nearly as much – grossing about $8200 to New York City.

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U.S. Fresh Vegetable Imports Jump by 13% in 2020

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U.S. imports of fresh vegetables jumped 13% in 2020, amid the pandemic, which may have contributed to the increase. The news comes from new statistics issued by the USDA.

During the 2020 calendar year, the total U.S. import value of 23 major fresh vegetables was $9.7 billion, up 13% from 2019.

2020 import values of asparagus, celery, endive and carrots were down compared with 2019, but every other vegetable commodity tracked scored gains. The value of U.S. tomato imports was up 22%, with fresh potato imports up 30% in value and garlic imports up 18% in value compared with 2019:

2020 import values, with percent changed from 2019, are:

  • Tomatoes; $2.8 billion, up 22%;
  • Peppers: $1.79 billion, up 7%;
  • Cucumbers: $909.9 million, up 10%;
  • Asparagus: $650.5 million, down 6%;
  • Squash: $473.1 million, up 22%;
  • Onions: $464.1 million, up 3%;
  • Lettuce: $407.6 million, up 11%;
  • Cauliflower and Broccoli: $380.6 million, up 10%;
  • Potatoes: $271.5 million, up 30%;
  • Garlic: $219.3 million, up 18%;
  • Beans: $177.4 million, up 17%;
  • Carrots: $103.1 million, down 9%;
  • Cabbage: $90.5 million, up 34%;
  • Peas: $89.9 million, up 18%;
  • Eggplant: 84.1 million, up 18%;
  • Celery: $69.1 million, down 9%;
  • Okra: $44.1 million, no change;
  • Radishes: $30.7 million, up 21%; and
  • Endive: $3.5 million, down 25%.

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U.S. Imports of Fresh Fruits Show Mixed Results

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2020 U.S. imports of fresh fruit revealed mixed trends in 2020, with citrus, mangoes, kiwifruit and berries up big time, while avocados, apples and melons were down by double digits.

Total 2020 imports of fresh fruits were valued at $14.7 billion, up 1% compared with 2019.

U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics showed 2020 import values, with percent changed compared with 2019 were;

  • Berries (excluding strawberries): $3.14 billion, up 7%;
  • Bananas/plantains (fresh and frozen): $2.45 billion, up 1%;
  • Avocados: $2.44 billion, down 12%;
  • Grapes: $1.73 billion, up 4%;
  • Citrus: $1.37 billion, up 11%;
  • Strawberries, (fresh or frozen): $1.1 billion, up 5%;
  • Pineapples, (fresh or frozen): $674.7 million, up 3%;
  • Mangoes: $642.5 million, up 12%;
  • Melons: $607.9 million, down 12%;
  • Kiwifruit: $165.2 million, up 17%;
  • Apples: $157.8 million, down 24%;
  • Pears: $106.01 million, down -10%;
  • Peaches: $61.6 million, down 10%; and
  • Plums: $37.3 million, down 13%.

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Latest Dietary Guidelines Emphasize Importance of Vegetable Consumption

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By Potatoes USA

DENVER — “It’s official: the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans have yet again confirmed the importance of eating more vegetables such as potatoes that provide potassium and vitamin C.1

“The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations focus on increased nutrient-dense vegetable consumption. Americans can take simple steps toward eating healthier by choosing potatoes. As a nutrient-dense vegetable, potatoes support all three healthy eating patterns – Healthy U.S., Healthy Vegetarian, and Healthy Mediterranean – defined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Potatoes’ versatility also means they can easily fit into meals across a variety of personal and cultural preferences for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“For the first time in the history of the committee’s guidance on nutrition and health, the Dietary Guidelines also covers specific recommendations for individuals under two years old, supporting potatoes as a healthy first food for babies and toddlers, as well.

“Potatoes are a good source of potassium, providing 15% of the daily value per serving in addition to being an excellent source of vitamin C, providing 30% of the daily value per serving. Vitamin C may help support the body’s immune system,2 which is likely to be especially top-of-mind for Americans as we head into 2021.

“What’s more, research shows that you’re likely to feel full for longer3-5 and support your body with the nutrients it needs when you choose good carbohydrates like potatoes. A serving of potatoes has 26 grams of high-quality carbohydrates that can help fuel an active lifestyle. Carbohydrates are the key fuel utilized by the brain and by muscles during exercise.6 Many Americans are moving to plant-based diets7 and obtaining enough high-quality protein is important in this process. Potatoes contain 3 grams of a complete protein that can easily be absorbed by the body.8,9

“Many Americans are struggling with food insecurity and are not meeting recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake.10 Research suggests that potatoes are an affordable, nutrient-dense vegetable that provides more nutrients per penny than most other vegetables.11

“Potatoes are a nutritious, affordable option that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways – including simple, delicious preparations with few ingredients, making them easy to incorporate into a healthy diet. For more information on potato nutrition and preparation please visit PotatoGoodness.com.”

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About Potatoes USA
Potatoes USA is the marketing organization for the 2,500 commercial potato growers operating in the United States. Potatoes USA was established in 1971 by a group of potato growers to promote the benefits of eating potatoes. Today, as the largest vegetable commodity board, Potatoes USA is proud to be recognized as an innovator in the produce industry. For more information on Potatoes USA’s mission to “Strengthen Demand for U.S. Potatoes” by creating positive change in the industry through innovative and inspiring approaches, please visit PotatoesUSA.com.

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