Archive For The “News” Category

FMCSA Announces New ELD Waiver for Ag Transporters

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A4By U.S. Department of Transportation

The U.S. DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today announced additional steps to address the unique needs of the country’s ag industries and provided further guidance to assist in the effective implementation of the Congressionally-mandated electronic logging device (ELD) rule without impeding commerce or safety.

The Agency is announcing an additional 90-day temporary waiver from the ELD rule for agriculture related transportation.  Additionally, during this time period, FMCSA will publish final guidance on both the agricultural 150 air-mile hours-of-service exemption and personal conveyance. FMCSA will continue its outreach to provide assistance to the agricultural industry and community regarding the ELD rule.

“We continue to see strong compliance rates across the country that improve weekly, but we are mindful of the unique work our agriculture community does and will use the following 90 days to ensure we publish more helpful guidance that all operators will benefit from,” said FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez.

Since December 2017, roadside compliance with the hours-of-service record-keeping requirements, including the ELD rule, has been steadily increasing, with roadside compliance reaching a high of 96 percent in the most recent available data. There are over 330 separate self-certified devices listed on the registration list.

Beginning April 1, 2018 full enforcement of the ELD rule begins. Carriers subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) that do not have an ELD when required will be placed out-of-service. The driver will remain out-of-service for 10 hours in accordance with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) criteria.  At that point, to facilitate compliance, the driver will be allowed to travel to the next scheduled stop and should not be dispatched again without an ELD.  If the driver is dispatched again without an ELD, the motor carrier will be subject to further enforcement action.

The Agency is committed to continuing the ongoing dialogue on these issues.

The waiver and guidance will be published in the Federal Register.

For more information on ELDs please visit:

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5 Health Benefits of Fresh Artichokes; Dollar General is Adding Produce

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A3Artichokes are a healthy vegetable and here are five reasons why.  Also, fresh produce is coming to hundreds of Dollar General stores this year.

Ocean Mist Farms is the leading grower of fresh artichokes and the only one to offer more than one artichoke option for you as a consumer – whole, raw artichokes to cook from scratch, organic and conventional, or washed, trimmed and ready to Season & Steam in a bag.

5 health benefits

  1. Antioxidants A study by the US Department of Agriculture found that artichokes rank number one over all other vegetables when it comes to antioxidant levels, including anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Don’t ignore the artichoke leaves or you’ll miss out on a plethora of nutrients!

2 FIBER One medium sized artichokes contains 6 grams of dietary fiber, which is a quarter of your recommended daily value! While artichokes are high in dietary                fiber, they are low in calories – only 60 calories per artichoke. 

  1. Protein Artichokes hold 6 grams of protein, making it one of the top vegetables that contain a significant amount to easily get more protein in your diet. 
  1. Prebiotics You can find inulin, one of the most available and the more promising prebiotics in the food supply, in artichokes. It helps improve gut, heart and digestive health! 
  1. Vitamins Artichokes are a very good source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K, which help growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body, assist in blood clotting and is helpful for your bone health.

          For recipe inspiration, visit

Dollar General

Hundreds of remodeled Dollar General stores are adding fresh produce following successful tests.

That company has 1,000 store remodels planned for 2018, with about 400 of those locations featuring  “traditional plus” stores including 34 cooler doors to merchandise an expanded perishables assortment.  Of the 750 traditional-plus stores to be operating by the end of the year, about a third will include an assortment of fresh produce, bringing to 450 the number of stores carrying fresh fruits and vegetables.

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California Strawberry Shipments Should be Near Record Levels this Year

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A2It’s looking like another good year is shaping up for California strawberry shipments, despite a few punches from Mother Nature. In fact, with a little luck, shipments might set a record.

A fast start for shipments  was the story earlier in California’s 2018 strawberry season because as of March 3 volume was more than double that of last year — 7.78 million trays compared to 3.7 million trays in 2017.  However, some  cold weather put a damper on things as volume was slashed.

But strawberries can rebound pretty fast and now there are adequate supplies expected for Easter (April 1st) and early April from Southern California, although it could be mid- to late April before heavy volume becomes available.

Both Santa Maria and the Watsonville districts suffered significant frost damage earlier this month, while Ventura and Orange Counties faired much better.  Those latter two counties should have decent volume in time for Easter shipments.

However, strawberry growers weren’t as lucky in the northern shipping areas of California.  For example, Red Blossom Sales Inc., of Salinas, which grows berries in Santa Maria, lost up to 30 percent of its product as a result of the March freeze.

Meanwhile Ventura and Orange counties should hit peak shipments in early April, with Santa Maria following by only a few days – probably mid-April.  Peak loadings are expected to extend through the middle of May, including Mother’s Day, May 13th.

Salinas strawberries are expected to have good volume during the first half of April.

California has 33,791 acres of strawberries this year, down from 36,387 acres in 2017, with all shipping districts showing decreases in acreage.

Planted acreage has declined 13 percent over the past three years, while total volume has increased by 6 percent, resulting in two consecutive years of record fruit shipments.

Assuming the weather cooperates, California weekly strawberry shipments during the summer and fall are projected to equal or surpass 2017 totals.  Last year, California strawberry shipments exceeded 206 million trays.


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Canadian PACA Trust Sought by the Produce Industry – Truckers Continue to be Ingnored

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DSCN4924For decades, the U.S. produce industry has had the protection of the Perishable Agriculture Commodities Act (PACA) offering protection from unpaid bills and other unscrupulous business dealings. Unfortunately these protections do not extend to produce truckers.

For a long time the Canadian produce industry has wanted something similar to America’s PACA, but resistance has been common from key government leaders.

In a  message to the trade last January, the Fresh Produce Alliance (made up of members of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, the Canadian Horticultural Council and the Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation) pointed out they were “disillusioned” with a letter from Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

The letter was a response to the committee’s request for an examination of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Model Law as a payment protection program for Canada’s fresh produce industry.

“The insolvency frequency of the fresh produce industry does not warrant the right to such an extraordinary remedy, which would have a significant effect on credit cost and availability and shift losses to other creditors,” according to the Bains-MacAulay letter.

The Canadian produce industry has been lobbying for a number of for a PACA, but disappointed with the decision.  However, they contend efforts will not cease to convince lawmakers of the need for a PACA-like trust for Canada.

“While consideration was given to Canada’s loss of preferential treatment to the PACA dispute resolution process in the United States, the government does not support the industry’s claim that produce businesses have been substantially impacted by this decision with many companies not being able to afford the PACA double bond and writing off monies owed,” according to the Fresh Produce Alliance letter. Canadian leaders have been asking for a PACA-like payment protection program for more than 30 years, since the PACA was established in the U.S. in 1985. The PACA puts produce sellers first in line among creditors of a bankrupt firm.

The issue has added urgency since 2014, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture revoked the privileged status Canadian sellers had under the PACA, because Canada lacked a similar program. Since then, Canadian firms that want to file a complaint against a PACA licensee have to provide a surety bond before the complaint will be investigated. The bonds are twice the amount of the claim.

A strategy to keep the issue before Parliament continues by The Fresh Produce Alliance.

As part of the strategy, the FPA said a letter is being sent to the key parliamentarians which expresses the industry’s deep disappointment and also identifies areas for continued effort.“We want to reaffirm our commitment to achieving a solution for industry and will continue to keep our members advised as we move forward,” according to the letter, signed by Canadian Horticultural Council Executive Director Rebecca Lee, CPMA President Ron Lemaire, and DRC President and CEO Fred Webber. “CPMA, DRC and CHC will continue to now look at our efforts at making sure our politicians realize there is a public policy value in having farmers protected when they sell fresh fruits and vegetables in the event of a bankruptcy,” Lemaire said.

(I have been advocating for 30 years the U.S. PACA include produce trucking under the protections afforded the produce industry, particularly in a case were there is a claims dispute. However, the produce industry has shown no interest and when necessary has actually opposed it.  The USDA also seems to view it as a “hot potato.” — Bill Martin)


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PhilaPort Reports Surge in Cargo at Philadelphia

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AA4As the the port of Philadelphia’s $392 million Main Channel Deepening Project approaches completion, cargo volumes in the port are surging, according to PhilaPort.

In 2017 container cargoes grew by 19 percent, leading all ports on the Atlantic seaboard. The growth is especially significant since the port is busy implementing its $300 million capital improvement plan.

 “We have a lot of exciting developments all occurring at the same time; record cargo growth, preparation for the deepened channel and the arrival of our new cranes,” said Jeff Theobald, executive director and chief executive officer of PhilaPort.  “It’s all very good news and we want to make sure we support the surge in cargo with proper training and landside and infrastructure improvements.”

The first two of a total of four super post-Panamax cranes are due soon at the port’s Packer Avenue Marine Terminal. Ocean carriers are already supporting the growth by scheduling Ultra Large Container Vessels to call the port.  Several 11,000 TEU vessels started calling PAMT in December and 12,200 TEU vessels are expected in the coming days.  Recently the board of directors of the port of Philadelphia granted funds to the Pilots’ Association for the Bay and River Delaware to train for these new class of vessels 12,000–14,000 TEUs.

The long-anticipated completion of the Delaware River Main Channel Deepening Project from 40 to 45 feet is drawing to a close.  In March, the port expects announcements on a phased approach, which will allow vessels to utilize increased arrival and departure draft depth.

PhilaPort, the port of Philadelphia, is an independent agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania charged with the management, maintenance, marketing and promotion of publicly-owned port facilities along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, as well as strategic planning throughout the port district. PhilaPort works with its terminal operators to modernize, expand and improve its facilities, and to market those facilities to prospect port users.  Port cargoes and the activities they generate are responsible for thousands of direct and indirect jobs in the Philadelphia area and throughout Pennsylvania.

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Port Shipping Updates: Savannah Set a Record, While a New Service Comes to Pensacola

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The Port of Savannah breaks a record for volume, while a new service has been established at the Port of Pensacola.


Savannah set a record last year for annual cargo volume by increasing 11 percent to over 4 million 20-foot equivalent units.

“This is the first time we’ve handled more than 4 million TEUs in a 12-month period, which is an important milestone for Savannah,” said Griff Lynch, Georgia Ports Authority executive director, in a Georgia Ports Authority news release.

The complex is investing in a deepening project called the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, supported by state and federal funds as part of establishing itself as a regional cargo gateway.

With three dredges currently working in the Savannah River, the project is scheduled for completion by the end of 2021.

The port is set to break ground on the Mason Mega Rail terminal in early spring, which will double Garden City Terminal’s rail lift capacity to 1 million containers per year. That project should be finished by the end of 2020.

“What sets Savannah apart is its ability to grow capacity, increase cargo and do it in an efficient manner without congestion,” Georgia Ports Authority board chairman Jimmy Allgood said in the release.

Another project designed to increase capacity is a $3.5 million upgrade to four of the port’s ship-to-shore cranes. The port also received four Neopanamax cranes in November and is set to receive six more in 2020, for a total of 36 cranes.

Ocean Shipper Adds Route

World Direct Shipping  is adding a service to Port of Pensacola, FL.  It already has a regular ocean shipping route from Mexico to Port Manatee.

The new route, which started February 1st, includes weekly sailings from Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, to Pensacola.  Another port in the northern region of Mexico’s Gulf Coast will be added.

“With Pensacola and Port Manatee, World Direct Shipping enhances its service network between Mexico and the Southeast United States,” Carlos Diaz, director of World Direct Shipping, in a news release.

Diaz said the Veracruz-Florida connections give more opportunities for exports through Pensacola from the Southeast U.S. Pensacola Port Director Amy Miller said the deal brings a new level of commerce to the port.

“Breaking into the container markets is a big deal for a smaller port like Pensacola,” she said in the release. “While large-scale container operations may be out of reach for us, we’ve always

known that there were smaller, niche container markets out there that made sense.”

The M/V Queen B, at 435 feet long, has the capacity for 657 twenty-foot equivalents. It is one of two ships on the Veracruz, Mexico, to Pensacola route.

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Georgia Peach Orchard Shippers Merge; Pharr Distribution Center is Coming

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DSCN0445Produce industry consolidations seem to be common place these days, with one of the latest being two Georgia peach shippers…Also new distribution centers continue in South Texas, this time from Evergreen Cold Storage.

Over 5,000 acres of peaches will be shipped under the Lane Southern Orchards brand following a merger of perhaps Georgia’s two largest peach shippers.

Lane Southern Orchards of Ft. Collins, GA and  Taylor Orchards of nearby Reynolds, GA have merged.  Lane Southern Orchards farms 2,000 acres of peaches and 3,500 acres of pecans, while Taylor Orchards farms 3,000 acres of peaches and 950 acres of row crops which include peanuts and soybeans.

The combined company will ship peaches under the Lane Southern Orchards label.  Additionally, the new operation plans to increase peach production by 700 acres and pecan production by 1,000 acres.

“This additional supply of peaches allows us to be a better supplier to existing customers and expand our customer base as well,” Duke Lane III, director of sales for Lane Southern Orchards, said in a news release. “From a sales and marketing perspective, you can engage consumers in creative ways with nearly 6,000 acres of Georgia peaches. It is going to be an exciting summer for Georgia peaches.”

New South Texas Distribution Center Coming

By Rio Grande Guardian

PHARR, TX – Pharr city and economic development officials helped Evergreen Cold Storage break ground on a new fresh produce warehouse project on Hi Line Road, not far from the Pharr International Bridge.

Victor Perez, executive director of Pharr Economic Development Corporation, said the groundbreaking kick starts Evergreen’s plans to construct a total of 283,200 square feet of warehouse space in three phases on approximately 16.7 acres.

“The first phase is the construction of a 117,000 square feet warehouse to be completed by December 2018. The second phase includes a 95,600 square-foot warehouse and a 13,000 square-foot commercial area, to be completed by December 2021. The third phase will include the construction of a 57,600 square-foot warehouse to be completed by December 2022,” Perez told the Rio Grande Guardian.

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The Bananas with an Edible Peel; Retail Food Inflation is Small

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AA3Bananas are always right at the top in surveys listing favorite fruits to eat. But now you can eat the banana peel – at least in Japan….Also, only a moderate increase in food prices is seen this year in the U.S.

Edibile Banana Peel

by Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News

The brainchild of food scientists at a farm in Western Japan, the eat-it-all Mongee (pronounced mon-gay) banana derives from a frigid growing environment.

“Typically bananas only grow in tropical climates, but D&T Farms uses a method called ‘Freeze Thaw Awakening,’”

Mongee banana trees grow at -76 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, they’re thawed and replanted. As a result, fruit grows rapidly and are left with a lettuce-like skin.

The designer banana, reports, is “sweeter than regular bananas, with 24.8 grams of sugar, as opposed to the average 18.3 grams.

Retail Food Prices

Retail food prices will rise between 1 and 2 percent in 2018 after dropping 0.2 percent in 2017, predicts the USDA.

The USDA’s January 25 food price outlook report said retail food price inflation has been lower than average because of a stronger U.S. dollar which makes imported foods cheaper.

A high dollar also dampens U.S. exports, which increases domestic supply of food and put pressure on prices. Moderate increases in energy costs and shrinking retailer margins in 2017 may have held down food prices, according to the USDA.

For 2017, the report said retail prices for fresh fruits fell 1.1 percent from November to December but are up 2.1 percent compared with December 2016.

While banana prices rose in December, citrus prices dropped 6.1 percent and apple prices were 2.4 percent lower than in November. The USDA said fresh fruit prices rose 0.5 percent in 2017. For 2018, fresh fruit prices may rise 3 to 4 percent.

Fresh vegetable prices increased 1.3 percent from November to December,  and were 3.5 percent higher than in December 2016. For all of 2017, fresh vegetable prices decreased 0.1 percent. For 2018, fresh vegetable prices are expected to change between -0.5 to 0.5 percent.


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Nogales Crossing Delays; Bananas are now Arriving at Wilmington

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DSCN9002Delays in Mexican produce crossing the border, which also means in delays for produce haulers picking up product at distribution centers, is occurring at Nogales, AZ…..Also, bananas are now arriving for the first time by boat at Wilmington, NC.

Nogales is a leading port of entry for Mexican fresh vegetables, amounting to $2 billion in 2016, is having delays due in large part from a shortage of officers.

A shortage of as many ad 300 officers is reported a US. Customs and Broker Protection (CBP). The results are long lines delaying produce border crossings.

Citing security reasons the CBP doesn’t reveal exactly how many officers are currently working at the gateway.  However, they acknowledge the port is rotating staff by bring in officers from other ports around the U.S. to Nogales for 90-day work assignments.  As many as 175 officers have relocated to the Nogales for temporary duty, reports the National Treasury Employees Union.

In 2016 alone, $8.3 billion worth of U.S. exports when from Arizona into Mexico.  Also in 2016, $7.4 billion in Mexican goods were imported into Arizona.

Not only is commerce adversely affected by the delays at Nogales, but travelers looking to cross the border are looking at lengthy delays.

Anthony Reardon, president of the Nogales, National Treasury Employees notes CBP’s protracted and complicated hiring process, strict polygraph testing, and extensive training times are all at play when he recently testified before congress.  This has resulted in 3700 vacant positions for the agency, simply due to the 12 to 18 month hiring process.

Banana Imports at Wilmington

Bananas imported from Central America recently began arriving at the Port of Wilmington (NC).    The inital arrival marks the beginning of a 12-month commitment to bring weekly deliveries of bananas for distribution by truck to distribution centers across North Carolina and South Carolina.

Wilmington is the first South Atlantic port to implement both phases of the Department of Agriculture’s Southeast In-Transit Cold Treatment Pilot program, which allows for more direct imports of produce.

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Fresh Del Monte and Mann Packing – A Potent Combination of Vast Innovation and Experience

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010By Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit

With relentless pressure on margins in all commodity produce driven by the ever-increasing power of large buyers, the necessity of innovation has never been greater.  Fresh Del Monte has invested in innovation, whether varietal — its Del Monte Gold Pineapple was the single greatest leverage tool in the produce industry for a while — or structural — methodically building a network of regional processors.  Now Fresh Del Monte decided, in one fell swoop, to buy an innovation factory and scale up its product line to be able to face retailers across a broader spectrum. We speak, of course, of the announcement that Fresh Del Monte will purchase Mann Packing.

From a business perspective, it is hard to think of a more synergistic acquisition. The storied Del Monte brand had its roots in vegetables, with canned green beans and the like creating billions of multi-generational impressions that have sunk into the collective sub-conscious of the nation and the world. Yet the fresh company had its strength in fruit — pineapples and bananas notably, but also fresh-fruit processing. Now, in one fell swoop, Fresh Del Monte has a division that is a leader in fresh-cut vegetables.

No business strategies have been announced, and for the moment, there will be no changes for customers. The Mann management team stays, and the company will operate just as before. But one doesn’t have to have inside information to imagine the Del Monte brand starting to appear on fresh-cut vegetable packs and other innovative products that Mann is known for.

The deal also points to the evolution in the business that is favoring multi-product companies. Once one company starts to broaden its range, others find the necessity to do the same; otherwise competitors, profiting on other lines, can eviscerate margins on the one competitive category and kill a business. Broad diversity of product, geography and customer type makes a company invulnerable to this strategy. So, Del Monte is acquiring not just a source for new product ideas and not just a new business line, but a strategically more defensible position in the industry.

The whole deal reminds us of something that has often been dismissed in recent times: The enormous value of experience. Deals like this involve many people doing many things but, despite its good sense, the deal might never have happened if Fresh Del Monte had not hired Emanuel Lazopoulos, now Senior Vice President of North America Sales, Marketing and Product Management.

Emanuel joined Fresh Del Monte back in 2005 to run its Fresh-Cut operation. His career, though, includes time as the Managing Director of NewStar Fresh Foods, as Vice President of DNA Plant Technology and as Vice President of Dole Fresh Vegetables — in other words, he spent a lot of time in Salinas. There are many companies that are buying other companies today — there is private equity and venture capital funds, for example. But for a family business like Mann, finding a home that will lead to success for grower partners, for employees, for the living embodiment of generations of sweat and tears, these are not trivial matters.

Over and over again, we have heard the same story: a team of super-smart, super-educated private equity analysts march into a business to review the numbers and do the analytics but also say they have no interest in touring the plant, so they turn off the very people they need to get excited about a potential combination. It is no stretch to imagine that decades of familiarity raised the comfort level and facilitated the deal.

There has been an enormous drain of produce experience from important produce companies and their retail customers. But deals like this remind us that though the loss may not always be evident or be easily quantified, it is real. One opportunity, one moment, one connection, can cover a lifetime of salary.

Selling a successful family business is always filled with both excitement and trepidation, hope and a tinge of melancholy.  But family businesses are always challenged by the mere passage of time. With each successive generation, ownership gets more diffused, difficult decisions have to be made about how to deal with the differing financial interests of those family members who work in the company and those who do not; estate taxes must be paid with each generation, and shareholders, once bound by love, respect, history, familiarity and propinquity — so often become strangers. If the right situation presents itself at the right time, a sale solves many problems and actually sets the business up for continued growth.

This particular story is a great drama. It includes great loss, but also stands as testament to the extraordinary resilience of the human spirit and the extraordinary importance of the individual.

It has a heroine… Lorri Koster, née Nucci, Chairman and CEO of Mann Packing Co., shepherded Mann through this process. She ran this ball down the field and carried it over the line. But she was not the football player in the family.

The plans once made called for her brother, Joe, to head up the company, who died several ago unexpectedly.  When these settled plans were disrupted, nine out of ten companies would have never recovered. But the Nucci’s and the Ramsey’s circled the wagons. Lorri’s father, Don Nucci, and Bill Ramsey jumped in, but Don died shortly thereafter.  Lorri, though, always connected to the family business, had left full time employment to try other things, including a stint at a produce dot com, setting up her own marketing agency, buying a local magazine.

But in the aftermath of the passing of both her brother and her father, this baseball Mom, with support of her sisters DeeDee and Gina, would come to guide Mann Packing to its present prosperity. To take a reputation for ethical business conduct, combine it with innovation, position it as Moms selling to Moms and complete the transformation of what was once the largest commodity broccoli shipper in the country into a kind of produce skunkworks that boosts sales and consumption with the quality of ideas well-executed.

Fresh Del Monte is a good home for Mann. The company knows growers, has facilities that can be jointly leveraged — say regional vegetable processing — it won’t run from a food safety issue, and both companies combined can leverage transportation and procurement.

This story, though, tells us that buildings and equipment are just the public manifestation of the story. It is the character of people that matters more than anything. Emanuel had to be seen as a man of good character and integrity; not having been in Salinas would have been a negative. Lorri had to undertake responsibilities when others might not have done so. She had to persevere under tragic circumstances when others would have not been able to. Amidst darkness, she had to broadcast a light that would inspire others to follow —and she did.

In business, everyone will look for opportunities to trade and engage with the new, larger, Fresh Del Monte, but the profit to be derived by watching this deal is the lesson that experience matters, that perseverance matters and the character matters —above all.

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