Archive For The “News” Category

Wide World of Watermelons

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By Ben Batton, ALC Des Moines

After a scorching hot summer ravaged much of the country, let’s think about something cool, sweet, and juicy. Watermelon, that iconic summer fruit, holds a special place in our hearts as the ultimate thirst-quencher and sweet treat. In this edition of Keeping It Fresh, we’ll take you on a refreshing journey through the world of watermelons, exploring fascinating facts, their growth areas, consumption, and the logistics that bring these luscious, lycopene-laden fruits to our backyards and tables.

Watermelons have a long history dating back to ancient Egypt, where they were not only consumed, but used as containers for water storage. There are over 1,200 varieties of watermelon, ranging in size, shape, and color. The most common types include the classic red seedless and yellow-fleshed varieties. Watermelons are aptly named, as they are composed of over 90% water. This makes them an excellent hydrating snack, especially during the hot summer months. Plus, they are rich in vitamins A and C, and antioxidants!

ALC Des Moines office has worked with Capital City Fruit since 1969, managing hundreds of watermelon loads every year. Keith Brooks, Capital City’s watermelon buyer, has been in the melon business since 1991 and has built strong relationships with growers nationwide. He works to guarantee the availability of fruit for his customers and sources watermelon all year long, especially during the peak season of April through August. Keith is active with the National Watermelon Association (NWA) and has been on the board for eight years. Allen Lund Company has been a member of the NWA for nearly 15 years.

“Back in the day, we used to load bulk watermelons on the floor of the trailers on top of straw or shredded newspaper,” Keith remembers. “But today, watermelons are shipped in bins triple-stacked on reefers or dry vans with produce vents.” All the growers he buys from are good partners who follow food safety requirements and communicate well. “However, some of the characters out there are lower than a snake belly in a wagon wheel rut, so you have to pick your partners wisely,” reminds Keith.

All fresh produce is heavily affected by weather, but watermelons present an added challenge because they are not typically cooled before shipping. Most produce is harvested and transported to a cooling shed where it is brought down to temp before being shipped across the country. Many growers use converted school buses to haul melons from the field to the packing shed, where they are sized and placed in bins. This means there can be a lot of “field heat,” so it’s common for drivers who transport watermelon to open the front and rear vents when first loaded in order to circulate air through the trailer during the first couple hours.

As we savor the sweet, juicy taste of watermelon on hot summer days, it’s worth appreciating the global effort and logistics that go into bringing this delectable fruit to our tables. From the fields where they are grown to the logistics networks that transport them, watermelons truly represent the essence of summer. So, the next time you bite into a slice of watermelon, remember the journey it took to reach your plate. Cheers to the summertime staple that keeps us cool and refreshed!


Ben Batten is General Manager, ALC Des Moines.
Ben graduated in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Transportation and Logistics from Iowa State University and joined DMTB in January 2004. Over the next decade, he worked as a broker, account manager, and sales executive before being promoted to VP of Sales and Operations in 2015. In 2017, he became a partner in the business, and the Allen Lund Company acquired DMTB in February 2020, where he served as the assistant general manager of the ALC Des Moines office before being promoted to general manager in 2022.

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2023-24 Apple Production Will Exceed 10.5 Billion Pounds

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Chicago — Consumers will have a plentiful supply of apples in 2023, as the U.S. apple industry continues to perform well, according to a new report released by the U.S. Apple Association (USApple) today at the organization’s 128th annual Outlook Conference in Chicago.

USApple’s “Industry Outlook 2023” provides the most up-to-date data and analysis on U.S. and global apple production, utilization and trade. Authored by USApple Director of Industry Analytics Chris Gerlach, the report takes an in-depth look at the trends and forces – from political headwinds to weather events – that shape the U.S. apple industry.

Overall Production

According to USApple’s analysis of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, total U.S. apple production for the 2023/24 crop year will be 250 million bushels. This represents a 1.5% increase compared to last year’s production figure.

These figures are more comprehensive than USDA data, which only look at the top seven apple-producing states. USApple analyzes the production from states outside of the top seven and adds that back into USDA’s figure.

“With considerable increases and decreases from top apple producing states, we’re pleased to net out with national apple production that will not only meet last year’s figure but exceed it slightly – there will certainly be plenty of high-quality U.S. apples available to consumers,” said Gerlach.


At the varietal level, Gala is expected to retain the top spot with more than 45 million bushels (m bu) produced, accounting for around 18% of the U.S. apple market. Included in the top five this year are Other Varieties. After Gala, rounding out the top five are Red Delicious (31 m bu), Honeycrisp (28 m bu), Other Varieties (25 m bu) and Fuji (25 m bu). Granny Smith just missed number five with 24.6 m bu.

Seeing “Other Varieties” climb and make their way into the top five produced varieties is an illustration of consumers’ growing appetite for all different types of apples.

“We learned today during an Outlook 2023 presentation that 48% of consumers say they generally buy the same variety of apple every time they shop,” said Gerlach. “That means 52% of shoppers might be willing to make an apple purchase based on different attributes, like flavor, appearance, and store promos. With an almost 50/50 split, there are opportunities for growers to harness consumers’ love of a familiar favorite or to sell them something new.”

Though Red Delicious remains the second most-produced apple, its production has declined steeply over five years. Red Delicious decreased by 42% or 23 million bushels compared to 2018/19 production volumes. Conversely, Honeycrisp production has increased by 46% or almost 9 million bushels during the same period. 


Fresh apple exports totaled 36.2 million bushels in 2022 – a 7% decline over 2021 levels. At the same time, fresh apple imports also decreased by nearly 13% to 5.3 million bushels.

While the U.S. still maintains a healthy net positive balance of trade, there is much work needed to get back to the high-water mark set in 2018. In that year, total exports were 48.5 million bushels and the trade balance was 41.6 million bushels.

“With the recent news that India has lifted its 20% retaliatory tariff on U.S. apples, we’re hoping to see that export number start to increase as we build back that critical market,” said Gerlach.

State Production

At the state level, Washington will remain the nation’s top producer with an estimated crop of 160 million bushels valued at more than $2 billion. This production level represents a 9% increase from the 2022/23 crop year. Following their largest ever recorded crop last year, Michigan is projected to decrease production by more than 15% to 27.4 million bushels. It is expected, however, that they will hold on to the number two spot ahead of New York as that state was hit with a late-spring frost causing production to fall by almost 19% to 26.2 million bushels.

Pennsylvania, California, Virginia, and Oregon round out the top producing apple states respectively.

The U.S. Apple Association (USApple) is a member-driven association that represents all segments of the apple industry, including growers, packers, shippers, marketers, processors, suppliers, state/regional associations, and other businesses engaged in the industry. We are the national voice and resource center serving the American apple industry which supports 150,000 jobs, generating more than $8 billion in total wages, and is responsible for almost $23 billion in economic output.

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Thank You! National Truck Driver Appreciation Week

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Sunday, September 10th through Saturday, September 16th is designated as National Truck Driver Appreciation Week for 2023.

This is a time when America honors all the professional men and women truck drivers who are so vital to our way of life. They are the link in the supply chain that delivers the everyday needs of food items, manufactured goods, and just about every item in your home, office, or factory. It doesn’t matter if you live in a small town in central Kansas or New York City they have you covered.

America has the most sophisticated supply network in the world, but it would grind to a halt without the truck driver. This week was created to remind all Americans these hard-working men and women deserve our respect and appreciation for all 52 weeks of the year. This year, let’s make the extra effort to extend driver courtesy when you see these big rigs making their way across the highways!

We see truck drivers everywhere we go. Who are these road warriors that move over 10 billion tons of freight or about 70% of all the freight in the US?
Here are some interesting facts about truck drivers.

**94% are men, 6% are women, the average age is 49.

**On average, they drive over 100,000 miles per year.

**Celebrity truck drivers include Sean Connery, Elvis Presley, Rock Hudson, and Chevy Chase.

**Truck drivers are the heroes who deliver the goods during pandemics, fires, floods, and national disasters that put themselves in harm’s way because that is what they are made of.

Whenever you get an opportunity, take a moment to thank that hard-working professional driver for delivering the goods that help keep America the greatest nation in the world.
Thank you, Drivers
Bill Bess, Director, Carrier Development
Allen Lund Company

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Oh California…

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By Makenna Christensen, ALC Logistics

Today, there are no container ships waiting offshore of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, a far cry from the 109-vessel queue in January of last year, but this doesn’t mean we have solved the problems that led to the backup. It’s easy to blame the pandemic for these problems, but the reality of the situation is these ports were bottlenecks long before COVID-19. The explosion of demand during the pandemic simply exposed these weaknesses. Now, with cargo volumes down, we have an opportunity to review our game tape, identify our weaknesses and areas of improvement, and find innovative new ways to fix our broken system. 

In April, the California Air Resource Board (CARB) voted unanimously to adopt the Advanced Clean Fleets rule. This legislation works hand in hand with the state’s Advanced Clean Trucks rule to “end the sales of traditional combustion trucks by 2036, creating a path to 100% zero emission medium and heavy-duty trucks on the roads in California by 2045.” This legislation also bars non-zero emission “legacy” drayage trucks from registering into the CARB online system after December 31st of this year. So much for learning from our mistakes…

Rather than collaborating with the private sector to bring about meaningful change, California is intent on forcing trucking companies to comply with unreasonable demands. Not only does the state lack the 157,000 chargers required to charge the estimated 180,000 medium and heavy-duty ZEVs expected to be in use by 2030, but it also lacks the energy required to support those chargers. The Wall Street Journal’s Jennifer Hiller explains, “As fleets add trucks they may need to draw an additional 6 to 8 megawatts of power or more”. Supporting this level of output would require infrastructure improvements that could take years. In the meantime, some electric fleets have turned to diesel generators to charge their trucks, while others are ordering legacy rigs that will be delivered before the January 1st cut-off. 

One of the industry’s greatest weaknesses during the pandemic was a lack of flexibility. The ports were weighed down by labor disputes and overregulation slowed down the nation’s supply chain exponentially. I understand the value of reduced carbon emissions, but we need a chance to fix the current supply chain before we rebuild it. 

Rather than leaning so heavily on electric trucks, California needs to focus on alternative green solutions, like hydrogen fuel, that do not rely on California’s already strained electric grid. While California’s regulations do recognize hydrogen fuel cell options, it widely follows the ‘electrify everything’ mentality. Further, California energy officials need to partner with the private sector to find innovative ways of cutting down our emissions while fixing the broken system that contributed to our nation’s supply chain crisis. If not, we have a recipe for disaster.


Makenna Christensen graduated from Marquette University in 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Human Resources. She started working at the Allen Lund Company in July 2022, as a Software Sales Coordinator for ALC Logistics, the software division of ALC.

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Consumer Study: 36% of U.S. Families Skip Meals for Economic Reasons

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About 36% of American families have skipped meals due to financial reasons during the last year, reports the fourth wave of the dunnhumby Consumer Trends Tracker (CTT).

Additionally, the study discovered 40% of consumers shop at multiple supermarkets to find the lowest prices, 9% higher from a year ago. 

The study also reveals that 30% of Americans in all age groups have skipped meals. In addition, 18-34-year-olds and 35-44-year-olds are the highest meal skippers of all age groups, at 38% and 37%, respectively.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the rate of food-at-home inflation is 7.1%, however, among surveyed shoppers, the perceived figure is 22.6%, more than 15 points higher than the official measure.

Similarly, perceived inflation has fallen 1.6% since November 2022, whereas actual inflation has dropped 4.9% over the same time period.

Among the 8,000-plus U.S. consumers surveyed online, dunnhumby found 62% of Americans would have difficulty paying an unexpected expense of $400. That percentage jumps to 75% for consumers aged 18-44 and 72% for families.

“Over this year-long study, we have seen a very troubling trend of nearly a third of all Americans and nearly 40% of younger Americans, skipping meals due to financial concerns. And wave after wave, our research has also shown that 18-44-year-olds are at the epicenter of a food and financial insecurity crisis that shows no signs of abating,” said Matt O’Grady, President of Americas for dunnhumby. “Unfortunately, the reduction in SNAP benefits, and the stubbornness of center store prices, there doesn’t appear to be relief in the short term for many Americans, especially those who are already food and financially insecure.”

Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and West Virginia continue to stand out for having the highest rate of food (36%) and financial insecurity (70%) in the country. These states also have the highest proportion of children at home compared to other geographic regions in the U.S.

Over half of customers (53%) report social media sites have influenced their grocery purchases in-store or online. Families with children at home (75%) and households heavily engaged with loyalty programs (68%) are two groups even more likely to be influenced by social media. Across all age groups, 37% were influenced by Facebook, 31% by YouTube, and 24% by Instagram.

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U.S. Imports of Mexican Avocados Breaks a Record

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Trade association Avocados From Mexico has topped its previous record by over 2 percent for U.S. import volume.

Total U.S. import volume was nearly 2.5 billion pounds for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2023.

The association expresses confidence it will break the record again this year (fiscal 2024, running from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024.)

The state of Michoacan appears to have a crop for this current year similar to the previous year, and import volume from Jalisco is growing exponentially, which means another record year if all goes as expected.

Promotions tied into Super Bowl weekend in early February was the biggest tentpole moment of the year resulting in excess of 250 million pounds of Mexican avocados imported in the weeks leading up to the big event.  AFM also saw record-setting Cinco de Mayo promotions and shipments, with volume up more than 60 percent from 2022 and up 18 percent from 2021, which produced the previous record.

Mexico accounts for 85 percent of the avocados consumed in the U.S.

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July Freight Volumes, Rates Chilled by Seasonality

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BEAVERTON, OR — Truckload freight volumes fell last month, and national benchmark spot rates for dry van and refrigerated (“reefer”) loads retreated from their gains in June, reported DAT Freight & Analytics, which operates the industry’s largest online freight marketplace and DAT iQ data analytics service.

The DAT Truckload Volume Index (TVI), a measure of loads moved during a given month, was lower in July for all three equipment types:

• Van TVI was 226, down 7.0% from June and 3.0% lower year over year.
• Reefer TVI slipped to 169, 3.4% lower than in June but 1.2% higher year over year.
• Flatbed TVI was 238, 12.8% lower compared to June but 3.5% higher year over year.

“Shippers faced service disruptions at the ports and in the less-than-truckload sector but were able to secure van capacity without causing the needle to move on spot rates and volumes,” said Ken Adamo, Chief of Analytics.

Despite month-over-month declines, the reefer and flatbed TVI numbers were the highest on record for July as fresh and frozen food, metals, machinery, construction materials and other seasonal freight moved through supply chains.

Demand for trucks slowed

National average load-to-truck ratios for van and reefer freight have been virtually unchanged for three straight months:

• The van ratio was 2.6, equal to June and down from 3.8 in July 2022.
• The reefer ratio was 3.8 – unchanged from June and down from 7.2 a year earlier.
• The flatbed ratio was 7.1, down from 9.7 in June and significantly down from 21.8 in July 2022.

Spot, contract rates dipped

Reflecting flat demand, DAT’s benchmark spot rates slipped in July:

• The spot van rate was $2.07 per mile, down 1 cent compared to June and 56 cents lower than in July 2022.
• The spot reefer rate dipped 3 cents to $2.44 per mile and 60 cents lower year-over-year.
• The spot flatbed rate was $2.54 a mile, down 7 cents month over month and 72 cents lower year-over-year.

Line-haul rates, which subtract an amount equal to a fuel surcharge, declined as well. DAT’s benchmark van line-haul rate was $1.63 per mile, down 2 cents compared to June. The reefer line-haul rate fell 5 cents to $1.96 per mile and the flatbed line-haul rate dropped 9 cents to $2.01 per mile. The average fuel surcharge increased by 2 cents to an average of 44 cents a mile for van freight, 48 cents for reefers and 53 cents for flatbeds in July.

“Spot rates, as a reminder, are ‘all-in’ rates, meaning no separate fuel surcharge to help mitigate the risk of fuel price fluctuations. You have to negotiate each individual load with fuel and operating costs in mind, which is not always easy,” Adamo said. “The sudden increase in fuel prices is testing the wherewithal of small carriers at a time when freight volumes are in a seasonal lull.”

DAT’s benchmark rates for contracted freight strengthened compared to pricing on the spot market. The van rate fell 1 cent to $2.57 a mile, the reefer rate gained 3 cents to $2.91 a mile and the flatbed rate rose 5 cents to $3.29 a mile.

After closing for three straight months, the spread between contract and spot rates was unchanged for van freight and increased by 6 cents for reefers and 12 cents for flatbed loads. The size of the gap is an indicator of bargaining power among shippers, brokers and carriers, Adamo explained.

About the DAT Truckload Volume Index
The DAT Truckload Volume Index reflects the change in the number of loads with a pickup date during that month; the actual index number is normalized each month to accommodate any new data sources without distortion. A baseline of 100 equals the number of loads moved in January 2015, as recorded in DAT RateView, a truckload pricing database and analysis tool with rates paid on an average of 3 million loads per month.

Spot truckload rates are negotiated for each load and paid to the carrier by a freight broker. DAT benchmark rates are derived from payments to carriers by freight brokers, third-party logistics providers and other transportation buyers for hauls of 250 miles or more with a pickup date during the month reported. DAT’s rate analysis is based on $150 billion in annualized freight transactions.

Load-to-truck ratios reflect truckload supply and demand on the DAT One marketplace and indicate the pricing environment for truckload freight.

About DAT Freight & Analytics
DAT Freight & Analytics operates the largest truckload freight marketplace in North America. Shippers, transportation brokers, carriers, news organizations and industry analysts rely on DAT for market trends and data insights based on more than 400 million freight matches and a database of $150 billion in annual market transactions.

Founded in 1978, DAT is a business unit of Roper Technologies (Nasdaq: ROP), a constituent of the S&P 500 and Fortune 1000 indices.

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Berries are the New King of Mexican Agricultural Exports

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Berries replaced beer as Mexico’s top agri-food export product in 2022. In the first two months of 2023, the industry confirmed its profitability with a revenue value of $777 million, according to the Bank of Mexico.

This means berries has surpassed other popular crops, such as avocados, and highly demanded products such as beer and tequila.

Berries are produced commercially in 22 of the country’s 32 states, and exported to 38 nations across the globe.

Mexico produces raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries, with the latter leading the export figures.

The U.S. is the biggest importer of Mexican berries, followed by the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Europe.

During the 10 years, strawberry, blueberry and raspberry production has tripled from 257,000 metric tons (MT) in 2011 to 754,000MT in 2020.

The total value of Mexican berry exports has increased fivefold during this period.

Víctor Manuel Villalobos, secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Government of Mexico, says that, in 2022, Mexico exported 560,000 tons of strawberries, and that the sector provides over 450,000 jobs.

Around 40% of these jobs belong to women in the industry.

Main producing states are Michoacán, where 58% of all berry production takes place, followed by Jalisco and Baja California with a 17% and 12% participation, respectively.

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Panama Canal Traffic is being Reduced by Drought

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In light of the ongoing dry season and its prolonged effects, the Panama Canal has informed its customers that it will maintain a draft of 44 feet for the next few months.

The measure will be in place for “as long as weather conditions do not vary significantly from our current projections,” the Panama Canal Authority says in a recent release.

This comes as the canal seeks to continue providing reliable and sustainable service for its clients.

An average of 32 vessels per day will be allowed transit with this temporary condition, as changes in precipitation patterns are expected to affect water availability in Panama.

Drought conditions in the canal are part of a global phenomenon, with the World Meteorological Organization warning about a high probability of El Niño setting in before the end of this calendar year.

The Canal has been implementing procedures to improve water efficiency in its operations, while conducting studies to identify long-term solutions to climate variability. However, the severity of the drought, coupled with its recurrence is historically unprecedented.

The Panama Canal remains committed to ensuring safe and reliable operations in the short term and optimal services for years to come.

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Peruvian Blueberry Exports Soar 43% in the First Half of 2023

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Peruvian fresh blueberry exports reached 34.7 million kilograms in the first half of 2023, reflecting an increase of 42.7 percent compared to the 24.3 million kilos shipped in the same period last year, according to Agraria.

By the end of the year fresh blueberries will be the main agricultural export crop from Peru, surpassing table grapes.

In the first half of this year, shipments of fresh blueberries from Peru were as follows: January, 15,716,388 kilos (11,982,583 kilos in January 2022); February, 9,655,215 kilos (5,707,546 kilos in February 2022); March, 3,827,527 kilos (2,874,230 kilos in March 2022); April, 1,331,768 kilos (976,997 kilos in April 2022); May, 1,551,628 kilos (762,083 kilos in May 2022); and June, 2,603,737 kilos (2,001,985 kilos in June of last year).

Shipments of fresh blueberries every month of this year have been higher compared to the same months in 2022. In addition, the 2023-2024 campaign (which started in May and whose peak is registered in September and October) it is already predicted it will be greater than the 2022-2023 season, and it is expected to grow in volume by 25-30 percent.

The main destination markets for fresh blueberries from Peru are the U.S., the Netherlands, China, the UK, and Hong Kong, among others.

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