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Eagle, Idaho – For eight years, the Big Idaho® Potato Truck, a 4-ton spud on wheels, has been turning heads and stopping folks in their tracks everywhere it goes. This summer, there’s another reason why people are taking a second look at the oversized vegetable. The Tater Team, the trio that travels with the Truck promoting famous Idaho® potatoes, is all women, including the driver. According to CNBC, only 6 percent of all truck drivers are female. So if you think a giant spud is a rare sighting, so is a female truck driver.
This year marks Melissa Bradford’s first year driving the Big Idaho® Potato Truck, and she’s a natural. Born and raised in Idaho, Melissa grew up harvesting spuds with her dad. She became a commercial truck driver in 2008, and in 2016 upgraded to a Class A commercial license, allowing her to operate a vehicle with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds. Melissa says seeing people’s reaction to the Truck is the highlight of her job, and she’s amazed at how many people ask her if the potato is real. Melissa is also a spokesmodel for the Duluth Trading Company.
Accompanying her are the “Tater Twins,” Jessica Coulthard and Kaylee Wells, Idahoans and best friends who have been traveling with the Big Idaho® Potato Truck for three years. They’ve trekked across the country countless times promoting the health benefits of Idaho® potatoes to millions of folks who are thrilled to see the largest spud on wheels. “The Tater Team represents the heart and soul of the Idaho® potato brand, and I’m exceptionally proud of Melissa, Kaylee, and Jessica for demonstrating its values on a daily basis,” says Frank Muir, President & CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC).
This summer, the trio will travel approximately 25,000 miles and visit about 60 cities. Some highlights of the 2019 tour include participation in the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hot Springs, Arkansas; a zip around the Indianapolis Speedway track; a stop at the World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle in Collinsville, Illinois; and its annual and highly anticipated appearance at the Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C. In many of the markets it visits, the Truck supports local charities through its “A Big Helping” program by helping them raise funds and awareness based on their specific needs. The Truck’s complete tour schedule is available at bigidahopotato.com.
The Idaho® potato brand has a long legacy of trailblazing women, and the Tater Trio aren’t the first women to represent Idaho® potatoes. In 2013, the IPC shattered the glass ceiling with the appointment of the first female Commissioner, Peggy Arnzen, a shipper from Benchmark Potato in Rexburg. The first female grower, Mary Hasenoehrl of Gross Farms in Lewiston, was appointed to the IPC in 2017. As industry leaders for many years, both Peggy and Mary have long and impressive backgrounds in farming and agriculture. Their perspective and experience have contributed to building impactful marketing programs designed to reach the IPC’s primary target audience, women ages 25-54.
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.
By Ron Sterk, Food Business News
WASHINGTON — Lower harvested area and yields pushed fresh vegetable production down 10% last year, to 35.9 billion lbs, the lowest in 19 years and the largest year-over-year drop during that time, the U.S Department of Agriculture said in its Vegetables and Pulses Outlook. In contrast, 2018 production of processing vegetables was estimated at 35.7 billion lbs, up 7% from 2017.
The four largest fresh crops — onions, head lettuce, romaine lettuce and tomatoes — accounted for 46% of total fresh production and 70% of the decline, the U.S.D.A. said. Planted area of onions, head lettuce and romaine lettuce was the lowest in 17 years. In contrast, fresh-market production of carrots, snap beans, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, garlic, spinach and artichokes increased.
Fresh vegetable prices declined about 5% in 2018 “in spite of lower domestic supply and slightly rising exports, which should put upward pressure on the price,” the U.S.D.A. said.
“Two foodborne illness outbreaks occurred in 2018, substantially slowing the market for fresh leafy greens,” the U.S.D.A. said. The four largest price drops were 31% for romaine lettuce, 16% for head lettuce, 15% for leaf lettuce and 14% for spinach.
Production of most processing vegetables declined in 2018, but the total was skewed by a 17% increase in tomatoes (technically a fruit), to 25.6 billion lbs, which accounted for 75% of processing vegetable production. Tomato production fell sharply in 2017 due to drought in California and high carry-in stocks from 2016, the U.S.D.A. said.
Per capita availability of fresh vegetables also declined while that of processing vegetables increased in 2018. But the gap between fresh and processed vegetable availability has widened significantly since the 1980s, with considerably more processed vegetables available relative to fresh market produce prior to the 1980s.
Prices for processed vegetables increased about 11% from 2017 but were down 6% from 2016, the U.S.D.A. said, “despite increased domestic supply and slowing export volume, which should put downward pressure on the price.”
Per capita (domestic production and imports) availability of fresh vegetables (excluding mushrooms, potatoes and sweet potatoes) was 144.8 lbs in 2018, down 8% from a year earlier, and totaled 183.8 lbs when all items were included, down 9%, the U.S.D.A. said. It was the largest annual decline on record. Of the 24 fresh items included in the total per capita availability list, 15 declined, 8 increased and 1 (mushrooms) was unchanged. The largest declines were sweet potatoes (31%), squash (22%) and head lettuce, romaine/leaf lettuce and bulb onions (19% each). The largest increase was carrots (16%).
Processing vegetable per capita availability (domestic production and imports) was 112.8 lbs, up 8% from 2017, including canning vegetables at 89.96 lbs, up 8%, and freezing vegetables at 22.88 lbs, up 7%. The total jumps to 198.5 lbs per capita, up 5% for the year, when mushrooms, onions (for dehydrating) and potatoes for processing are added.
Total U.S. vegetable imports were a record 23.3 billion lbs in 2018, the highest in about three decades, the U.S.D.A. said. Exports were 11.4 billion lbs. The value of imports was $13.9 billion in 2018 compared with the value of exports at $6.5 billion.
“The United States has experienced an increasing trade volume deficit in total vegetables since 2001,” the U.S.D.A. said. “Based on early trade data, 2019 seems poised to fall behind 2018 vegetable trade levels for imports.”
The U.S.D.A. forecast fresh market vegetable production at 38.5 billion lbs in 2019, up 7% from 2018, and processing vegetable production at 35.4 billion lbs, down 0.8%.
Mission Produce Inc. of Oxnard, CA has announced plans to ramp up its Columbian avocado production within the next two years. The announcement was made prior to the World Avocado Congress, held in Medellin, Columbia in late September.
The company partnered in 2017 with Cartama, one of the country’s largest avocadoo growers, according to a news release.
“Colombia will provide us with an added source of year-round, high-quality fruit,” Mission Produce president and CEO Steve Barnard said in the release. “We will also continue partnering with Cartama to support volume and growth. We are replicating our vertically-integrated, cutting-edge business model in this country.”
The goal is to plant 1,000-1,500 hectares (about 2,500-3,700 acres) of avocado trees in Colombia to supply domestic and international markets, including the U.S. and Europe, Barnard said.
Colombia’s location makes it ideal for producing avocados because of its growing conditions, market accessibility and logistical abilities.
“Colombia is unique in that it offers a year-round supply of fruit. Our country will act as strong source for global avocados in the coming years,” Cartama CEO Ricardo Uribe said in the release.
Wish Farms recently held a groundbreaking for its new 3-story, 24,000 square foot office for their expanding operation. Construction of the 130,000 square foot warehouse and cooling facility is scheduled for completion in January 2020. Third and fourth generation family members were all in attendance commemorating the memorable groundbreaking event.
Wish Farms, based in Plant City, FL, is an international grower and year-round shipper of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.
“Along with my sister Elizabeth and our spouses, James Peterson and Stephen Cramer, we are proud to work for our family business and carry on its rich legacy,” said Nick Wishnatzki, Marketing Project Manager. “This is an exciting moment for everyone at Wish Farms; we are all looking forward to a bright future.”
The office is due to be occupied by staff in September 2020. Among other things, it will feature an indoor grove of trees, an adult-sized slide, a tree house conference room and employee gym.
Third generation owner, Gary Wishnatzki, started working as a dock hand for his father and uncle in 1974: “When my grandfather Harris arrived at Ellis Island from Russia in 1904, he could never have imagined what his American dream would become 115 years later. It brings me great pride to know that my children and their families will continue carrying the torch.”
Wish Farms, founded in 1922, is a 4th-generation family operated company growing both conventional and organic varieties.
The third location of an automated online order fulfillment center has been announced by Kroger.
“The new facility (in Forest Park, GA) will provide Kroger the ability to bring customers across the coverage area fresher food faster than ever before,” Tim Brown, president of Kroger’s Atlanta division, said in a news release. “I’m thrilled the Atlanta market was selected as one of the 20 (customer fulfillment center) sites.”
In the release, Kroger described the center as a $55 million investment. The company is building the centers in partnership with Ocado.
Luke Jensen, CEO of Ocado Solutions, said the facility will “transform the e-commerce experience for customers in the region.”
“In a fast-developing landscape for grocery retail, Kroger’s determination to continue delivering the best experience for its customers, online as in stores, is unparalleled,” Jensen said.
The Georgia facility will be 375,000 square feet, per the release. Kroger will break ground on it later this year, and it is expected to be operational in 2021.
Monroe, Ohio, and Groveland, Fla., are the locations for the first two automated fulfillment centers.
Kroger broke ground on the Ohio facility in June and also plans to break ground on the Florida facility this year.
Second-quarter vegetable sales totaled $7.68 billion, up 5.3 percent from the same period in 2018.
Fruit sales declined 0.6 percent to $8.16 billion on mixed performance of individual commodities, according to the latest FreshFacts on Retail report.
“Mandarins rebounded from supply challenges to return to strong double-digit growth,” the United Fresh Produce Association wrote in the report. “With just one commodity reaching more than half of all households during the quarter, opportunities exist to increase product reach.
“Private label also presents an interesting opportunity as it’s far less developed in fruit than vegetables but increased sales by double digits,” United Fresh wrote.
Strawberry volumes sales dropped 8.2 pecent, and dollar sales fell 7.8 percent to $814 million. Oranges saw a 5.4 percent dip in volume, and dollar sales dropped 11.6 percent to $268 million. Avocados also saw a 7 percent decrease in volume, but dollar sales increased 10.3 percent to $639 million.
Mandarins saw a 23.8 percent increase in volume and 13.5 percent increase in dollar sales to $423 million, and raspberry volume grew 14.4 percent, spurring a 6.5 percent jump in dollar sales to $237 million.
Vegetables that fared well in the second quarter included lettuce, with dollar sales up 6.8% to $454 million; bell peppers, with dollar sales up 5.6% to $406 million; broccoli, with sales up 9.3% to $254 million; and onions, with sales up 15.1% to $553 million.
The value-added vegetable category also saw growth in the second quarter, growing 6.2 percent in volume and 8.8 percent in dollar sales to $391 million.
The following items saw both volume and dollar sales increase substantially:
- Mixed vegetables: +7.4 percent to 27 million pounds, +8.0 percent to $106 million
- Broccoli: +13.5 percent to 21 million pounds, +15.2 percent to $61 million
- Celery: +23.9 percent to 11 million pounds, +26.9 percent to $28 million
Organic produce sales also grew in the second quarter, reaching nearly $1.5 billion, up 3.9 percent from the same time in 2018.
Berries were among the organic items with the most growth since last year, with volume increases of 11 percent for strawberries, 15.4 percent for blueberries and 27.8 percent for raspberries. Lettuce and the herbs and spices category also saw significant increases.
Latin American fruit and vegetable growers are primed for more growth according to a new 326-page report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
Providing the outlook for 2019-2028, there are “strong growth opportunities” in the Latin America region to produce high-value fruits and vegetables. That trend, according to the report, will help provide better opportunities for small land holders.
Since 2000, the report said fruits and vegetables gained considerable importance in Central America, Mexico and Chile.
Research by INIA, Chile’s chief agricultural research institution, has contributed to a 1,000 percent increase in nut exports from 2001-2011 and a big increase in blueberry output. “From being practically an unknown fruit to farmers only two decades ago, today Chile is an important blueberry producer and exporter in the Southern hemisphere,” the report said.
U.S. trade statistics show that Chilean berry exports to the U.S. (excluding strawberries) rose from about $19 million in 2000 to $465 million in 2018.
The report said Latin American and Caribbean production of fruits and vegetables have grown considerably in the last few decades, with most volume of exports bound for the U.S. and Canada. Free trade agreements have spurred that growth, according to the report.
In addition to the North American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. has the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) and separate trade agreements with Chile, Colombia, Panama and Peru.
While Mexico has traditionally been the main fruit and vegetable supplier to the U.S., the report said Central American countries and Chile have played an increasingly important roles in the U.S winter fruit and vegetable market.
For example, USDA trade statistics show that U.S. imports of fresh fruits and vegetables from Central America more than tripled from 2000 to 2018, rising from $920 million in 2000 to $2.94 billion in 2018.
Likewise, U.S. imports of fresh fruits and vegetables from South America more than tripled from $1.27 billion in 2000 to $4.37 billion in 2018.
U.S. imports of fresh fruits and vegetables from Mexico from 2000-2018 grew at an even faster clip, rising from $2.04 billion in 2000 to $12.1 billion in 2018.
In 2017, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala and Costa Rica accounted for 75.4% of U.S. total fresh vegetable imports, according to the report.
For fresh fruits, the report said nine Latin American countries represented 92.3% of total U.S imports, led by Mexico, Chile, Guatemala and Costa Rica.
Over the past two decades, harvested area of fruits and vegetables in Mexico increased 26.2% to 4.6 million acres. That compares with increases of 42.2% in Chile and 45.8% in Central America.
“The region’s traditional fruit and vegetable production and exports (Mexican tomatoes and avocados, Chilean grapes and peaches, Central American bananas and pineapples, for example) have risen considerably and have expanded to include, for example, Chilean cherries and cranberries; Central American chillies and peppers, and eggplant; and Mexican blueberries and raspberries,” the report said.
Reflecting favorable weather and labor conditions, Latin American and Caribbean countries may continue to enjoy a comparative advantage in fruit and vegetable production in the future, according to the report. That could be further strengthened by improving storage technology, infrastructure and production practices, according to the report.
Looking ahead, the report said that global population growth and improvements in per capita incomes will help fuel a 1.4% annual growth rate for bananas and tropical fruit in Latin America and the Caribbean over the next ten years. Bananas will account for about half of tropical fruit output, according to the report. Exports will grow at an even faster rate.
“Preference changes towards higher consumption of tropical fruits in developed regions, particularly in the case of avocado, should meanwhile stimulate a further expansion in trade,” the report said. The report said banana and tropical fruit exports from Latin American and the Caribbean are projected to grow at 1.7% annually between 2019 and 2028.
“Latin America/the Caribbean will continue to be the main source of global supplies in bananas and tropical fruits, with its share in global trade projected to remain close to 80% by 2028,” the report said.
A decline in U.S. citrus production land shipments during the next decade is predicted by the USDA, while increases with items such as nuts will increase.
Citrus production is projected to decline slowly over the ten-year projection period, according to the USDA’s Agricultural Projecions to 2018.
U.S. citrus production will decline from 16.07 billion pounds in 2019 to 14.7 billion pounds in 2028, the agency said.
“The expected declines stem from the loss of bearing acreage in Florida and the continued spread of citrus greening, a citrus disease spread by insects for which no cure currently exists and which has the potential to threaten the entire citrus industry,” the report said. “Declines in citrus production are projected to be offset by increases in noncitrus production.”
Meanwhile, the USDA reported expanding acreage of tree nuts in response to rising demand will boost production and tree nut output will continue to grow over the next ten years.
U.S. fruit, nut and vegetable production farm value is projected to grow 2.7 percent annually for the next decade.
The USDA said estimated total farm value of fruits, nuts, and vegetables will reach $68.2 billion by 2028, up from $53.9 billion in 2019.
According to the report, fruits contribute roughly 43 percent of the total value, tree nuts account for 18 percent, and vegetables nearly 40 percent.
Measured by farm weight, the USDA said production of fruit and tree nuts, and vegetables, are projected to rise at an annual growth rate of 0.52% and 0.54 percent per year, respectively.
The USDA said:
- Overall fruit and tree nut production is expected to reach roughly 63 billion pounds in 2028;
- The value of farm production of fruit and tree nuts is projected to grow at roughly 2.7 percent annually, with tree nuts expected to grow 3% per year, citrus at just under 3 percent, and noncitrus at 2.5 percent per year;
- Over the next 10 years, the shares of vegetable production for fresh use and processing are expected to remain at current levels, according to the USDA;
- Fresh use is expected to account for roughly 28% of total vegetable production while processed vegetables are projected to make up about 30% of total production;
- U.S. fresh vegetable production is projected at 39.5 billion pounds in 2019, and is predicted to rise slightly to 39.8 billion pounds in 2028;
- U.S. noncitrus fruit production will grow from 37.6 billion pounds in 2019 to 40.3 billion pounds in 2028;
- U.S. tree nut production will rise from 6.8 billion pounds in 2019 to 8.3 billion pounds in 2028; and
- U.S. potato production will grow from 46.1 billion in 2019 to 47.4 billion pounds in 2028.
By Drew Costly, SFGate
Retail prices for avocados have nearly doubled amid a global shortage of the fruit, but there’s a farm in Florida that’s got those prices beat by a long shot.
Miami Fruit in Florida is growing Pura Vida avocados with long necks and selling them for as much as $47 for a box.
The avocados – that have the normal marble, dark green skin, light green flesh and hard seed center, but with a long neck that starts where the basic avocados come to a point – have been going viral since the farm posted a video to Instagram in early August.
Each of the long-neck avocados weigh between 1-3 pounds, according to NBC’s Today Show reportt on the viral fruit, while California Haas avocados typically weigh 1/3 of a pound. California Haas avocados reached a high price earlier this year at $3.37 each, but per fruit price for the Pura Vida avocados range between $4.38 and $$15.66.
The newly formed joint sales alliance of Michigan Fresh Marketing of Grand Rapids and BelleHarvest Sales Inc. of Belding, MI has added Elite Apple of Sparta, MI as another supplier.
The 500,000 cartons Elite Apple has committed to Michigan Fresh Marketing and BelleHarvest represents about half of Elite Apple’s 2019 projected volume, according to a press release.
“After having more than doubled our packing capacity, we’ve decided to add Michigan Fresh and BelleHarvest to our sales group,” Rich Kent, Elite Apple partner, said in the release.
Recently, Elite has added a second packing line to their facility.
“In order to keep up with retail consolidation and industry changes, this allows us the versatility to pursue larger programs for sustained periods of time,” Elite partner Ken Hubert said in the release.
Selling fruit from 8 packing facilities, Michigan Fresh Marketing and BelleHarvest project that they will ship over 3 million cartons of Michigan and Wisconsin apples in the upcoming season.
“We are looking at a favorable apple crop in the Midwest and are excited to work with the exceptional team and partners at Elite,” Michigan Fresh CEO Joe D’Ottavio said.