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Avocado Imports by U.S. Should Remain Strong this Season

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Mexican avocado imports by U.S. importers will remain strong in 2018-19.  A  new report from the USDA notes Mexican hass avocado production is forecast at 1.9 million metric tons or more for marketing year 2018-19.

By way of comparison, production estimates for the 2017-18 season are about 2 million metric tons, according to industry estimates.

Mexico’s Michoacán region is the world leader in avocado production and accounts for 80 percent of total Mexican avocado volume.

Total area planted for Mexican avocados for 2017-18 is about 571,000 acres, up a little more than 5 percent from about 540,000 acres in 2016-17.

Export outlook

Mexico’s avocado exports for 2018-19 are forecast to be close to 1 million metric tons, according to the report. That is similar to 2017-18, according to the USDA report.

The USDA report said the U.S. is the top importer from Mexico, consuming between 74 and 79 percent of total Mexican exports. About  6 percent of exports are sent to Japan and 7 percent to Canada.

While Mexican hass exports to the U.S. have increased with year-round access to all 50 states, the USDA report said exports to Canada, Japan and Europe have also risen.

The USDA report said a price dispute between producers in Michoacán and packing companies caused growers to cease harvesting activities Oct. 29 for approximately two weeks.

The report said an agreement was reached to end the strike on November 14,th when the parties along with the Mexican government agreed to have public reports of market information including:

  • Product exported;
  • Product sent to domestic market;
  • Volumes sold; and
  • Destination

Growers in Michoacán generally sell their fruit on the spot to a packer in terms of pesos per kilo.

“The intention is to have transparent commercial value information of the avocado trade,” the USDA report said. “Parties agreed that market prices will be adjusted according to the supply/demand principle.”

Mexican producers said the strike caused a deficit of 38,000 metric tons in the U.S. market, but that resumption of packing was expected to erase that shortage within a few weeks,  according to the USDA report.

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Truckers Avoiding Some Retail Chains Who are Slow at Loading, Unloading Docks

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Electronic logging device regulations have resulted in truckers being more selective with which shippers and receivers they  work.

For example, Zipline Logistics of Columbus, OH has surveyed over 150 trucking companies asking how their business has changed following the ELD mandate.  A significant 54 percent report they no longer spend as much time waiting to load or unload their truck, while 80 percent note there are shippers or receivers they refuse to go to because wait times are too long.

The Zipline report stated one respondent commented, “Locations that are known to have little to no regard for a driver’s (hours of service) are no longer serviceable.”

Another company reported it monitors load and unload times so it can avoid going to places with unreasonably long loading and unloading delays.

“Anyone that can’t unload or load on time, why go to them and waste hours?” one respondent wrote. “Time is money now.”

Over 90 percent of the companies with which Zipline works service grocery and retail facilities, and some of them named major retailers and wholesalers among the worst offenders.

“A select population of drivers are now unwilling to go into locations such as Kroger, C&S Wholesale and (United Natural Foods) because of debilitating wait times,” Zipline wrote in its report. “If this issue is to be solved, shippers and retailers will need to improve their speed of operations and better cater to the needs of truckers.”

Walmart, Supervalu, Dollar General, Aldi, Wakefern Corp., Safeway and Meijer were also mentioned in comments by survey respondents.

The Zipline report stated trucking companies were divided 60-40 on whether the ELD mandate improved safety.

Some reported that it forced drivers to stop, rest and follow hours-of-service requirements, but other companies reported drivers were speeding more, driving in inclement weather, and driving while tired to maximize their hours.

Companies pointed to the driver shortage, rather than the mandate itself, as the main cause of rising rates. However, there were a few comments about drivers leaving the industry so as not to have to deal with the new regulations. Still, most companies pegged the mandate as a contributor to higher rates rather than the main cause of them.

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Updates: Fewer Apples for Shipping; RRV Potatoes; Star Group Tomatoes

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There were 16 percent fewer U.S. fresh apples remaining to be shipped as of December 1st compared to a year ago, according to a new report from the U.S. Apple Association.

Total fresh apples in storage totalled 103.3 million 42-pound cartons,  down from 122.9 million cartons last year and 11 percent less than the five-year average holdings of 116.7 million cartons.

Apples in storage for processing were off even more sharply, with 25.5 million cartons down 44 percent from a year ago and off 42 percent from the five-year average.

Red River Valley Potatoes

By Ted Kreis, NPPGA Communications

As we near the halfway point of the Red River Valley fresh potato crop shipping season, marketers are pleased, especially when comparing this year to last year.

The good fortune started early in the season when a heavy snow cover protected about 4,000 acres of unharvested potatoes from the very cold temperatures that settled in for a few days after the snowstorm.

The color and quality of this year’s crop is excellent and supplies are much more manageable after a nearly 10 percent cut in fresh acres in the Red River Valley.

Demand is strong. Big potato crop losses in Wisconsin and Canada has pushed more business to the Red River Valley.

Last year’s biggest problem, without the doubt, was the truck shortage. It was responsible for lost sales, higher freight rates, backed-up inventory which in turned caused falling prices and higher shrink later in the season. This year trucks have been much more available and nobody knows exactly why, but we are all hoping it continues through the second half of the season.

The Star Group Tomatoes

The Star Group of  Voorhees Township, is producing tomatoes in a new greenhouse facility in Culiacan, Mexico.

The Big Taste brand roma tomatoes are entering the market the U.S. market through McAllen, Texas, and Nogales, Ariz., according to a news release.

The company will be shipping the romas, beefsteaks, grape tomatoes and slicer cucumbers through the winter from the new Culiacan facility.

Other Big Taste branded products from The Star Group in Mexico are tomatoes on-the-vine, grape tomatoes and Big Taste berries.

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Produce Trucking Rates Set Record for 2nd Quarter of 2018

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Records for both truck rates and shipping volumes were broken in the second quarter of 2018, according to a new report from the USDA.

The Agricultural Refrigerated Truck Quarterly, reviewed truck rates from April through June this year and provided an outlook for refrigerated trucks through the end of 2018.

“Indicators point to sustained high rates and tight capacity for the trucking industry, including the refrigerated truck market, through the end of 2018 and possibly beyond,” the report said.

In addition, the report said Hurricane Florence may have effects on the truck market in the months ahead, adding pressure to an already tight market.

“With demand for truck services projected to remain high, these combined factors could keep truck capacity scarce and rates high for the foreseeable future,” the report said.

Hauling the freight

Trucks continue to be the dominant carriers of freight, carrying 70.2 percent of domestic freight in 2017, according to the American Trucking Associations. Strong economic growth kept truckers rolling in the first half of the year, as real gross domestic product increased 4.2 percent in the second quarter of 2018, the USDA reported.

While the economy was heating up, unemployment reached a 10-year low of 3.8 percent in May.

Construction, manufacturing, or local driving positions through ride-sharing services offer competition to long-haul trucking positions.

Some trucking companies have increased drivers’ wages as a result.

Through the first half of 2018, ATA reported the freight tonnage hauled by trucks increased 7.9 percent,up from a 3.8 percent increase in 2017.

The report said DAT Solutions reported strong demand for trucking services caused truckload spot rates to reach a record high in June, topping a 15-month run of spot market rate increases. In the refrigerated truck market, DAT reported the national average spot market truck rate hit the highest point ever recorded, at $2.69 per mile in June, up $0.58 from June 2017, and $0.11 higher than the contract rate. While increases in contract rates typically lag four to six months, after a sustained increase in spot market rates, this year the lag has been only a few weeks.

Refrigerated truck market

Strong demand for trucks and large volumes has mostly affected truck rates for shipments of 500 to 2,500 miles, according to the USDA. The U.S. average refrigerated truck rate reached a record high in the second quarter, for shipments between 501 and 1,500 miles ($2.96 per mile), up 12 percent from the previous quarter ($2.64 per mile).

The U.S. average truck rate for shipments between 1,501 and 2,500 miles was still higher than usual at $2.45 per mile, but was 3 percent lower than the record high of $2.54 per mile, set in the first quarter of 2018. In contrast, average truck rates for shipments less than 500 miles, and over 2,500 miles, have remained within normal ranges.

Fruit and vegetable shipments

Reported U.S. truck shipments of fresh produce during the second quarter of 2018 were a record 9.65 million tons, 21 percent higher than the previous quarter, and 1 percent higher than the same quarter last year.

Shipments from Mexico were the highest in the second quarter, totaling 2.85 million tons and accounting for 30 pecent of the total reported shipments of fresh fruits and vegetables. Loadings from California totaled 2.24 million tons, accounting for 23 percent of the reported shipments. Movements from the Pacific Northwest totaled 1.55 million tons, representing 16 percent of the reported total.

The study noted until 10 years ago, California and Florida were the two biggest suppliers of fresh fruit and vegetables, during the second quarter.  In recent years, both states have lost market share to the Pacific Northwest and Mexico, the USDA said.

The volume of shipments from Mexico through Texas reached a new high of 1.30 million tons during the second quarter of 2018, an increase of 8 pecent over the same period last year (1.21 million tons).
Five commodities accounted for 42 percent of the reported truck movements during the second quarter of 2018:

  • Watermelons, seedless (11 percent);
  • Potatoes (11 pecent);
  • Apples (8 percent);
  • Onions, dry (7 percent); and
  • Strawberries (4 percent).

 

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Western Shipping Updates: Peppers Plus, Fresh Farm; and Sunions

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Here’s a shipping update on three companies in the Western U.S.

Peppers Plus LLC of Rio Rico, AZ began shipping peppers December 1st, and will continue shipping Mexican vegetables into the spring.

While the company will continue shipping green, red, yellow and orange blocky Bell peppers, it has discontinued shipping mesh-house bells.  Meanwhile the operation increased from 100 to 112 acres of peppers this season.

Peppers Plus also is shipping hard shell squash and will continue until about June 1st.  Peppers should wrap up in mid May.  The company has been expanding its growing operation on average of 10 to 15 percent per year.

Fresh Farm is Shipping

Fresh Farms’ winter vegetable program “will be up ten percent for every item,

The operation has been shipping green Bell peppers, pickles, eggplant and hard squash since mid November and should continue with good volume until May.

The firm’s English cucumbers will be shipped until mid-April.

Fresh Farms’ green bean shipping started earlier this month and was soon followed by yellow and bi-colored sweet corn.

The company’s organic program this season includes zucchini, yellow, butternut and spaghetti squash, as well as American and English cucumbers and green beans.

Sunions

Shipments of Sunion onions has got underway in its second season.

Sunions, a long-day sweet onion variety grown in Washington and Nevada, was developed by Nunhems Vegetable Seeds and is distributed by Generation Farms of Lake Park, GA;  Onions 52 LLC of Syracuse, UT and Peri & Sons Farms Inc. of Yerington, NV.

Unlike other long-day onions, Sunions actually become sweeter and tearless in storage, according to a news release.

Sunions are released for sale using a certification process that includes a sensory panel with the authority to determine Sunions ship dates, and the panel uses three separate tests for both flavor and tearlessness before releasing Sunions for shipping.

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The New Vector 8611MT Trailer Unit Provides Versatility for Center-Divide Trailers

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Vector_8500The versatile new Vector™ 8611MT, a multi-temperature trailer refrigeration unit, enables a trailer to be divided lengthwise into two refrigerated compartments. Introduced recently by Carrier Transicold, the Vector 8611MT unit incorporates two evaporators and fans for two-zone cooling without requiring a separate remote evaporator.
“The Vector 8611MT unit harnesses the innovative Vector platform to create a highly efficient, high-performance unit for center-divide trailers where the perishable and frozen compartments are side by side,” said Patrick McDonald, product manager, trailer products, Carrier Transicold. “The all-electric architecture of the Vector series enables the unit to independently manage the two zones more simply and efficiently than mechanically interconnected competitive units.”
“The Vector 8611MT unit will especially appeal to food service and grocery distribution operations for the flexibility it offers in creating center-divide configurations,” McDonald added. “Uniquely, our split evaporator design creates a 15-inch-wide area for center-wall placement, providing a more efficient accommodation of pallets that allows up to 17 percent more cargo than competitive systems requiring trailers to be divided precisely down the middle.”
As with other units in Carrier Transicold’s Vector platform, the new unit features E-Drive™ all-electric technology, in which the diesel engine runs a 21 kVA electric generator that powers the refrigeration system. Vector units have built-in electric standby capability, so when parked for loading, unloading or staging, they can be operated via an electric power source, providing full refrigeration capacity while eliminating refrigeration unit engine noise, emissions and fuel consumption.
The innovative Vector 8611MT unit architecture eliminates most refrigerant valves and significantly reduces the number of braze joints and potential refrigerant leak points compared to mechanically interconnected competitive models. Uniquely, the Vector 8611MT unit has independent air control, enabling it to optimize airflow and pulldown to both zones. If heating is required, it has the advantage of consistent electric heat, rather than hot gas heat. This reduces system complexity and enables the unit to shut down the compressor and other refrigeration components when heating is required, greatly reducing the power load on the engine, resulting in further fuel savings.
The Vector platform’s reduced system complexity also simplifies diagnostics and maintenance requirements for service technicians.
For additional details on the Vector 8611MT trailer refrigeration unit, which will be commercially available in the first quarter of 2019, turn to the experts in Carrier Transicold’s North America dealer network.
About Carrier Transicold
Carrier Transicold helps improve transport and shipping of temperature-controlled cargoes with a complete line of equipment and services for refrigerated transport and cold chain visibility. For more than 45 years, Carrier Transicold has been an industry leader, providing customers around the world with advanced, energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable container refrigeration systems and generator sets, direct-drive and diesel truck units, and trailer refrigeration systems. Carrier Transicold is a part of UTC Climate, Controls & Security, a unit of United Technologies Corp., a leading provider to the aerospace and building systems industries worldwide. For more information, visit www.transicold.carrier.com. Follow Carrier on Twitter: @SmartColdChain.

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CA Grape Shipments to Go Through January; Romaine E.Coli update

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Grape shipments from California are moving in record volume as the season approaches a conclusion.

Between October 13th and November 30th, California grape shipments totaled over 27.7 million 19-pound boxes to domestic and export markets.  The USDA report the number beats the previous seven-week record during that time frame set in 2013.

California grape grower-shippers also broke the record for the three-month shipping period from September 1st to November 30th, with over 55 million boxes of grapes, according to the California Table Grape Commission. The previous record was also set in 2013.

Shippers also set a new record for the five-week period of September 8th to October 12th.

Shipments are expected to continue through the end of January.

Romaine E.coli 

The Food and Drug Administration has named Adam Bros. Farm in Santa Barbara County, California as one potential source of the E. coli outbreak linked to romaine — but it cautions that the finding does not explain all the illnesses in the outbreak.
Investigators found E. coli in the sediment of an irrigation reservoir used by Adam Bros. Farm, but the FDA continues to search for other sources of contaminated product.
“While the analysis of the strain found in the people who got ill and the sediment in one of this farm’s water sources is a genetic match, our traceback work suggests that additional romaine lettuce shipped from other farms could also likely be implicated in the outbreak,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb and deputy commissioner Frank Yiannas said in a statement. “Therefore, the water from the reservoir on this single farm doesn’t fully explain what the common source of the contamination (is). We are continuing to investigate what commonalities there could be from multiple farms in the region that could explain this finding in the water and potentially the ultimate source of the outbreak.”

The investigation has produced records from five restaurants in four states, with those restaurants sourcing from 11 distributors, nine growers and eight farms, according to the FDA.
Currently, there is no one company that is a part of all the supply chains being investigated.

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Wreaths Across America Honors Fallen Soldiers

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WP Rawl of Pelion, S.C., a grower/shipper/processor of leafy greens, again participated in Wreaths Across America’ Honor Fleet. The company has participated in the event for the past three years, according to a news release.

Volunteers all over the U.S.honor fallen veterans each December by participating in an annual wreath-laying ceremony. The wreaths, adorned with a red bow, are placed on the graves of fallen veterans. 

The annual tribute began in 1992 with Morrill Worcester and his wife Karen Worcester at Arlington National Cemetery. In 2007 Wreaths Across America was formed to honor fallen veterans and since has grown to over 1,400 locations, in 50 states, at sea and abroad. The mission of Wreaths Across America is to ‘Remember, Honor and Teach.’ 

This year, WP Rawl picked up the wreaths in Columbia Falls, Maine and carried them to Beaufort National Cemetery in South Carolina.  The truck’s exterior was displayed with a picture of a national cemetery and included a message of awareness for Wreaths Across America. 

“It was very nice to see the turnout this past weekend at the National Cemetery in Beaufort. It was packed. I enjoyed seeing everyone pitching in and helping out,” Darren Gambill, WP Rawl truck driver and a U.S. Army Veteran.  The playing of the bagpipes was very moving. It was great to be able to experience this for the first time.”

“Many of our Rawl family members and family of employees are veterans or families of veterans,” Ashley Rawl, vice president of sales, marketing and product development for the company, said in the release. “Participating in Wreaths Across America is a great way to show our gratitude to veterans like Darren as well as honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.”

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The Average American Eats 111 Pounds Of Potatoes Each Year

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By The Idaho Potato Commission

Eagle, Idaho – It’s no surprise that during the six week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day more Idaho® potatoes are sold than during any other time of year.  From creamy mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving to crispy latkes for Hanukkah to steaming big bakers for New Year’s Day, the versatile vegetable shines during the holiday season! While the preparation options for potatoes are endless, Idaho grows enough potatoes to feed millions of folks in the United States and around the world all year long.
 
Chew on This…

  • Approximately 311,000 acres of Idaho® potatoes (that’s about 13 billions pounds) are harvested each year.
    • That’s enough to fill 500 football stadiums 10 feet high!
  • Ninety percent of those 311,000 acres will grow russet potatoes like Burbanks, Norkotahs, Rangers and Westerns.
    • The remaining 10% will grow niche varieties like golds, reds, fingerlings and more.
  • 412 pounds of Idaho potatoes are sold every second!
  • Wondering how the potatoes are used?
    • 43% are used in processed products (frozen and dehydrated)
    • 43% are sold fresh
    • 14% are grown for certified seed
  • Idaho® potatoes are transported across the country via trucks (70%) and rail (30%).
  • What makes Idaho® potatoes different from potatoes grown in other states? It’s a combination of Idaho’s rich volcanic soil, warm days, cool nights and an abundance of clean, fresh water from the majestic mountains.
  • Who loves Idaho® potatoes the most? News Yorkers! Followed by folks from Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Visit www.idahopotato.com for more fun facts, recipes and cooking tips.

About the Idaho Potato Commission

Established in 1937, the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) is a state agency that is responsible for promoting and protecting the famous “Grown in Idaho®” seal, a federally registered trademark that assures consumers they are purchasing genuine, top-quality Idaho® potatoes. Idaho’s growing season of warm days and cool nights, ample mountain-fed irrigation and rich volcanic soil, give Idaho® potatoes their unique texture, taste and dependable performance. These ideal growing conditions are what differentiate Idaho® potatoes from potatoes grown in other states. For more information, visit www.idahopotato.com

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Leafy Green Shipments from Branch Farms Coming out of Florida

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A23by Branch: A Family Of Farms

South Bay, Fla. – Branch: A Family of Farms, the country’s largest distributor of sweet corn, is in the midst of a promising season of leafy green production out of their Belle Glade and South Bay, Fla. farms.

The region and its crops were spared by Hurricane Michael in early October which allowed Branch to ship its full offering of leafy greens without interruption.

“We are very lucky that we can meet demand of leaf lettuce from our Florida farms,” says Brett Bergmann, president of Branch. “We look forward to providing our customers with fresh, quality product this holiday season.”

Branch’s farmers grow a full assortment of leaf items including green and red leaf, Boston, romaine, endive, escarole, parsley, dill, cilantro and Chinese cabbage.  This year’s forecasted cool winter provides ideal growing conditions for Florida leafy greens.

Branch growers invest in trialing new varieties each new season to provide the best items available. This year’s new offerings include a new green leaf variety and three romaine varieties which were bred specifically for the Florida environment. These varieties have good head size and weight and are excellent for romaine hearts. Additionally, a new endive was introduced that grows in a more upright and conical manner. This helps reduce shrink through minimizing rib breakage as well as making it easier to pack.

“Our primary goal from our research and development process is to continuously improve upon the eating experience for the consumer and of course improve upon how existing varieties perform in the Southern climates,” said Bergmann.  “We thrive from having collaborative conversations around product innovation with customers.  More so than ever before, it’s imperative to be continuously innovating and planning out varieties and supply needs well in advance.”

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About Branch
Since 1957, our founding principles still drive us at Branch: integrity, quality, service – a commitment to our industry and the sustainability of our environment. As a family owned and operated business, we are a premier grower, packer, shipper of sweet corn in the United States also offering our customers green beans, leafy greens, radishes and celery.

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