Archive For The “News” Category

The Doughnut Peach is Everywhere Right Now

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A16By Sarah Jampel, Bon Appetit

Might I be so bold to throw my hat into the ring and call it The Summer of the Donut Peach?

Okay, so maybe it’s a stretch, but I’ve seen more squat, pancaked peaches—which are sweeter, milder, and less fuzzy than their spherical sibs—this year than ever before. What once seemed like a rarity, sold at only the fanciest grocery stores (when Florence Fabricant wrote about “a new kind of white peach” sold at Grace’s Marketplace in 1993, she called the fruit “juicy and luscious” though “peculiar” and “positively deformed”) has become commonplace: crates piled high at the farmers’ market, clamshells for sale at Whole Foods and on Fresh Direct. I love their name, their look, and their feel, and I can’t leave the market without buying at least one for each palm.

With such a funny shape (they’re like the Persian cats of peaches), you might assume there’s some funny business going on with their breeding. But flat peaches aren’t genetically-modified oddities at all: They’re the descendants of wild pan tao (also called peento) peaches from China, which were introduced to the US nearly 150 years ago. It wasn’t until the ‘60s and ‘70s, however, that scientists at Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station hybridized the plants to produce hardier, frost-resistant trees with bigger, sweeter, peachier fruit. They called the fruit, low in acid and high in sugar, the Saturn (you can guess why).

Jerry Frecon, now a horticultural consultant and Rutgers professor emeritus, worked with Dr. Fred Hough to develop Saturn at the Agricultural Experiment Station, then, in the ‘80s, brought the variety to Stark Bro’s Nurseries and Orchards Co. in Missouri, which purchased the license to grow and sell the trees.

When the Stark Bro’s’ license for the Saturn peach expired in the early 2000s, more farmers were able to grow flat peaches than ever before, opening up the market and putting flat peaches in more stores. And since those early days, many more varieties of trademarked flat peaches have been introduced in US markets—Frecon estimates there are 15 to 20 kinds in this country, and many more around the world—as people have grafted and hybridized.

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Truck Rates 20% Higher than Last Year, After Being at Historic Levels

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DSCN0845Trucking produce rates set some historic highs during the summer.  While rates have declined since then they still remain will above the level of 2017.

For example, Mexican citrus, watermelons and vegetables crossing into the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas were $4800 to $5000 in mid August compared to $7800 to $8500 in the middle of June.

Salinas-Watsonville vegetables and strawberries were grossing $9100 to $10000 in mid June to Baltimore, but has dropped to mostly $8,100 in mid-August.

Washington’s Yakima Valley apples, pears and stone fruit were grossing about $8200 to Boston in mid-June, off from about $7,800 in mid-August.

While rates have come down from mid- and late June peaks, they have stayed high compared to previous years.

Historically, summer produce rates reach a peak in May or June and start tapering off in July.  This year was no different.  Historic peak rates in June of $2.70 per mile had dropped to $2.59 per mile in July, which includes fuel surcharges. Still the July 2018 produce trucking rates were 25 percent higher than the same period in 2017.

With the close of August no serious truck shortages from major produce shipping areas were being reported.  August rates were averaging $2.50 per mile, which was still higher than any period on record prior to this year.

Close observers of truck rates believe rates will continue to remain higher than in past years with reasons ranging from higher wages for drivers, ever increasing truck regulations, and a soaring economy with low unemployment. Additionally, there’s more competition for trucks from dry freight with the improved economy.

With the arrival of fall comes additional demand for equipment due to back-to-school activities, Halloween and demand for perishables from foodservices entities ranging from restaurant chains to school cafeterias. Fall crops ranging from apples to pumpkins and potatoes also increase demand for trucks.

While truck rates typically decline overall in the fall, some observers believe rates will remain higher, perhaps as much as 20 percent for the same time a year ago.


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Sun Belle Opens New Miami Distribution Center

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A30By Sun Belle Inc.

Sun Belle Inc., a leading marketer and distributor of conventional and organic berries, has opened an 82,000-square-foot state of the art refrigerated distribution facility in Miami.

Adjoining Miami International Airport, the facility is also 15 minutes from the port of Miami and close to the Palmetto Expressway, Florida Turnpike and I-95. Sun Belle is using the facility for the fresh berries and other produce the company markets and distributes on behalf of its growers and is providing third party handling for perishables on behalf of other importers and distributors.

“Sun Belle has had Miami operations for more than 16 years,” stated Janice Honigberg, the company founder and president. “This is Sun Belle’s third home in Miami. We bought this facility in early 2017 and built it out to our specifications so we would have enough room for our growing berry business as well as to provide handling services for others.

“Sun Belle Miami operates seven days a week,” Janice added. “We take pride in fulfilling deliveries completely and on time and being responsive to truckers, suppliers and customers alike.”

The facility features a total of nine docks, including 7 refrigerated docks, 4 precoolers, 7 independent coolers, two large refrigerated work rooms, an ample refrigerated dock and dry storage. Access to the docks is off 25th Street; the office and parking is off 72nd Avenue.

Sun Belle’s new facility is Primus Global Food Safety (GFS), Organic and Demeter Biodynamic® certified and operates around the clock. Sun Belle is exploring the efficacy of installing automated blueberry sorting equipment in order to pack bulk berries.

Sun Belle Inc. was established in Washington, DC in 1986. In addition to the Miami facility, Sun Belle operates a 63,000 square foot facility in Jessup, Maryland; a 52,000 square foot facility in Schiller Park, Illinois; and 14,000 square feet of dedicated space within a 50,000 square foot facility in Oxnard, California. The company markets conventional and organic berries, including blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, golden berries, cranberries and red currants, under the Sun Belle® and Green Belle® brands.

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Fruit and Vegetable Price Update; AgroFresh Introduces FreshCloud

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A96From now into 2019 low retail price inflation is anticipated for fresh fruits and vegetables, according to a USDA report. Also, FreshCloud has been introduced by AgroFresh.

In the recently released Food Price report, the department notes fresh vegetable prices fell 0.2 percent from May to June, and now are 0.8 percent less than in June 2017.  The USDA reports retail fresh vegetable prices are expected to remain steady with last year, changing between -0.5 to 0.5 percent in 2018 and then increasing 1.5 to 2.5 percent in 2019.

Prices for fresh fruits fell 1.2 percent from May to June but are up 1.9 percent compared with June 2017.  The report said that despite citrus prices rising 2.3 percent, prices for apples and bananas fell 0.4 percent, and prices for all other fruits fell 4 percent from May to June.

The USDA forecasts fresh fruit prices to increase 1.5 to 2.5 percent in 2018 and rise 2 to 3 percent in 2019.

The report observes farm level fruit prices are forecast to drop between 2.5 to 3.5 percent and drop another 3 to 4 percent in 2019. Farm-level vegetable prices are forecast to drop between 6 and 7 percent this year and decline an additional 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2019.

AgroFresh Launches FreshCloud

AgroFresh Solutions Inc. of Philadelphia has launched a new tool to predict the freshness of produce.

Known as the FreshCloud platform, the tool uses data to monitor produce quality through the supply chain, according to a news release.

The release notes the new technology will allow users to predict produce freshness, quality and optimal consumption timing.

AgroFresh recently acquired Verigo, whose technology will help AgroFresh improve fruit quality, leading to less food waste.

“As the world becomes increasingly data-driven, our commitment to high-quality fresh produce requires not only the best chemistry and expertise, but also the best information technology to ensure freshness across the supply chain and increased logistical efficiency to minimize waste,” AgroFresh CEO Jordi Ferre said in the release.

Verigo’s technology forms the foundation of FreshCloud Transit Insights. The acquisition also revamped AgroFresh’s AdvanStore offering, now called FreshCloud Storage Insights.

FreshCloud Predictive Screening, part of the FreshCloud platform, will predict the risk of disorder development during storage by analyzing gene expression at commercial harvest.

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Apple Shipments to be Near Last Season’s Volume; Frontera Produce Celebrates 25 Years

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A95Plenty of loading opportunities for apples will be available this season as another large crop is predicted for the new season just getting underway….Meanwhile Frontera Produce Ltd. is celebrating a quarter century of shipping.

Apple shipments for the U.S.  2018-19 season are estimated at 11.5 billion pounds, up less than 1 percent compared with last year.

In its August 10 apple crop report, the USDA forecast Washington state apple shipments at 7.2 billion pounds, down 4 percent from 7.5 billion pounds a year ago.

“In Washington, apple harvest is expected to be of average quality this year,” according to the USDA. “There are some concerns about the hot weather that the crop has been facing so far this year, but producers are prepared to protect the crop from sun damage and have enough water to keep the crop irrigated.”

The USDA reported some New York growers had frost damage during bloom in isolated areas of the state.  New York production was rated at 1.3 billion pounds, unchanged from a year ago.

Meanwhile, the USDA said a large crop with good sizing is anticipated by growers in Michigan, with forecast production of 1.175 billion pounds, up 40 percent from 840 million pounds in 2017.

A small crop last year led to a heavy bloom this spring in most Michigan growing regions.

State apple forecasts for this season, in millions of pounds (and last year’s production):
California — 225 (260)
Michigan — 1,175 (840)
New York — 1,300 (same)
North Carolina — 100 (115)
Oregon — 175 (155)
Pennsylvania — 528 (504)
Virginia — 225 (220)
Washington — 7,500 (7,200)
West Virginia — 102 (110)
United States — 11,406 (11,452)

Fronteria Produce

Frontera Produce Ltd. of Edinburg, Texas, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year as the company continues to add more products to its lineup.

The shipper recently partnered with Continental Fresh LLC, Miami, to offer year-round supplies of mangoes and limes.  The new partnership adds to Frontera’s Mexican and Peruvian grower relationships by bringing in product from Brazil and Ecuador.

“Moving into the next 25 years, Frontera will continue to advance our business by leaning on our core principle values of integrity, transparency, and excellent communication, that have taken us this far,” says Amy Gates, Vice President of Frontera Produce.

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USDA Report Says Higher Produce Trucking Rates May Lead to Closer Look at Rails

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A349Following a number of years where intermodal and rail shipments of fresh produce have been down, some observers think volume will be increasing at the expense of trucking.

Rising fuel prices and increasing truck rates should make refrigerated shipments by intermodal and rail more competitive, according to a new USDA report.

The first quarter 2018 edition of the USDA’s Agricultural Refrigerated Truck Quarterly, issued in July, reported 2017 investments in refrigerated facilities and technology have increased the long-haul capacity for shipping fresh fruits and vegetables by intermodal and rail.

“Furthermore, increasing fuel costs and a driver shortage for trucks may further increase demand for shipping fresh produce by intermodal and rail,” the publication said.

Rising fuel rates figure to make intermodal and rail more competitive. Diesel prices rose from $2.47 per gallon at the end of 2016 to $2.87 per gallon by the end of 2017. On July 23, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported the average price for a gallon of on-highway diesel in the U.S. was $3.22 a gallon.

The publication cited Tiger Cool Express who feels rising diesel prices make trucks a less competitive option to intermodal and rail since diesel fuel makes up a higher percentage of the variable costs associated with truck operating costs.

Diesel fuel averaged close to $4 per gallon in 2012, the USDA said, which was the peak year for shipments by intermodal and rail.

Later fuel price declines led to decline in intermodal and rail shipments of fruits and vegetables.

Now rising fuel prices could be good news for intermodal and rail, the USDA said.

In addition, strong economic growth in 2017 increased demand for shipments by truck, putting upward pressure on truck rates while decreasing capacity.

2017 availability ranged from adequate to shortage conditions, which potentially will cause some shippers to consider seeking shipments of fresh produce via intermodal or rail, the USDA said.

The USDA said that since 2012, the overall trend for intermodal and rail shipments of fresh fruit and vegetables has been decreasing for shipments originating in California and the Pacific Northwest, registering a 42 percent decrease between 2012 and 2017.

Combined rail and intermodal shipments decreased from 1.6 million tons in 2012 to 937,265 tons in 2017. Between 2016 and 2017, rail shipments decreased 22,055 tons and intermodal shipments decreased 3,230 tons.

The report said the 2014 demise of Cold Train — a major provider of refrigerated railcar service through its partnership with BNSF Railway — cut the availability of intermodal and rail service for fresh produce.

Still, the USDA said the January 2017 announcement by Union Pacific that it had acquired Railex LLC’s refrigerated railcar and cold storage distribution facilities in Delano, CA, Wallula, WA, and Rotterdam, N.Y. could signal more volume for that service.

The report noted that Union Pacific said it would increase the frequency from 3 to 5 days per week for Cold Connect on east-bound departures from California and Washington.

In 2017, the USDA reported intermodal shipments of iceberg and romaine lettuce increased from the previous year. Reported shipments increased 24 percent (10,125 tons) for iceberg lettuce and 28 percent (7,280) for romaine lettuce. On the other hand, shipments of lemons decreased 50 percent (112,230 tons).

Reported rail shipments increased 5 percent (8,925 tons) for potatoes in 2017.

While trucks will always be the most economical option for some shippers, the report said improvements in the refrigerated supply chain for intermodal and rail could make it a more attractive option, particularly for long-haul routes.

“Even if shipments by rail typically take several days longer than by truck, shippers may be willing to trade time for capacity and lower costs if the truck capacity crunch and rising diesel prices persist,” according to the report.

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Lipman Family Farms, NatureSweet Partner

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IMG_6550+1by NatureSweet®

San Antonio — Tomato industry leaders Lipman Family Farms and NatureSweet are joining forces to better serve customers and quick service restaurants by ensuring year‐round premium, high‐quality, high‐flavor slicing and salad tomatoes. NatureSweet brings to the table years of greenhouse growing expertise, while field grown tomato leader Lipman brings deep experience serving food service customers.

As the better burger, quick service and fast casual restaurant industry continues to grow in the United States, changing consumer taste demands high‐quality and exceptionally tasting ingredients, and Lipman Family Farms and NatureSweet help deliver on that promise.

“We’re pleased we’ll be able to assure a 52‐week supply of exceptional slicing and salad tomatoes to our valued clients,” said Lipman Family Farms CEO Kent Shoemaker. “NatureSweet is known for their successful snacking tomatoes and innovative packaging, and we’re glad to share our strengths and expertise in a partnership. Our goal is to bring the high flavor, high color, high density characteristics of our field grown Crimson variety to the greenhouse product we create with NatureSweet. Our food service customers need access to premium product on a year‐round basis. They also need greenhouse and field grown options.”

It’s a 100 percent joint venture between both companies with equal investments. The tomatoes will be cobranded and distributed under the Lipman name.

This is a first‐of‐its kind initiative to bring together the biggest food service names and the industry‐leading tomato suppliers. The partnership is planned to launch in October 2018.

About Lipman Family Farms:
Lipman Family Farms is a full service tomato and vegetable company operating in both open field and protected agriculture. Lipman is the largest open field tomato grower in North America. Lipman’s seed to shelf supply chain control – research & development, farming, processing, repacking, logistics and marketing – delivers the consistency and quality that has made Lipman Family Farms North America’s most dependable source of fresh tomatoes and vegetables.

About NatureSweet®:
NatureSweet® Tomatoes is the leading grower of premium, branded, best‐tasting fresh tomatoes in North America. Always vine‐ripened and hand‐picked at the peak of freshness, only NatureSweet® tomatoes guarantee great taste all year round. NatureSweet® tomatoes are carefully grown, harvested and packaged by more than 9,000 full‐time Associates, and are sold at major grocers, mass retailers, club stores and food service operators in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

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Hispanic Conumers Lead in Avocado Consumption

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avocadoGirlIt’s no surprise Hispanics are avocado buyers, but a recent Hass Avocado Board study shows that even as consumption of the fruit has risen in many demographic groups, Hispanic consumers continue to outpace others in many areas.

The study, Hispanic Avocado Shopper Trends,  and a companion document giving retailers ideas on how to capitalize on the findings, Hispanic Avocado Shoppers Trends Action Guide, is based on retail data from the IRI Consumer Network, according to a news release.

Hispanic household purchase trends of avocados outpace non-Hispanic households in these areas:

  • The percentage of total U.S. households that buy avocados
  • The average avocado spend per household; and
  • The percentage of households that buy avocados at the “super” level ($25.36 and more a year)

“Hass avocados are continuing to gain widespread popularity,” Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board, said in the release. “And this study shows that Hispanic households are particularly involved in the avocado category and play an important role in its growth.”

In 2017, Hispanic household avocado purchases averaged $33, 45 percent more than the $22.69 spent by non-Hispanic households, according to the release, and average per-trip purchases were $4.46, compared to $3.83 for non-Hispanic households.

The Hispanic “super households” (the HAB breaks down purchase levels into super, heavy, medium and light) are the main reason for the gap between their purchases and non-Hispanic households, with 36 percent of them in the super category, versus 24 percent of non-Hispanic households meeting that level.

Hass Avocado Board is the essential online resource for the Hass Avocado industry providing timely relevant data and research for the domestic producers and importers it represents.

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Steady Progress at Index Fresh Pharr Facility Since Opening

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A333By Index Fresh

Riverside, C.A. — Since its opening on January 9, 2018, the Index Fresh facility in Pharr, TX, has seen steady progress and is rounding out support for the company’s operations across the United States. The leading avocado marketer broke ground on this 60,000 sq. ft. ripening, packing and distribution center just over a year ago in June.

“The bagging and repacking in the facility has increased in the last few months,” said Manrique Palacios, Distribution Center Manager of Index Fresh in Pharr.

With its proximity to the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, the facility has been a great point of contact for Index Fresh expanding its Mexican program this year, said  Santiago Pacheco, VP of Operations at Index Fresh.

“Mexico is a year-round source and we bring all of our Mexican products through Pharr. It’s an integral part of our operation. We use it for staging, for shipping loads into the Midwest, Northeast, and the West.,” said Dana Thomas, President and CEO of Index Fresh.

Index Fresh is the first occupant in the Pharr Produce Park, a big step for Pharr’s economic development as construction of other facilities continue at the Produce Park.

The Index Fresh facility is equipped with 2600 pallet positions, 10 ripening rooms, and three bagging machines. “We are expecting our second Mexican season and complete our first year of operations. We are performing an analysis to enhance our bagging capacity for the next season and working on business development to expand our ripening volume in Texas and the Midwest,” said Palacios. “We are also open to offering 3PL services that include storage, ripening, bagging, and distribution to potential customers.”


Index Fresh is a worldwide marketer of avocados, sourcing from all major growing regions around the globe, including California, Mexico, Peru, and Chile.  Headquartered in California, the company has facilities spread across Texas, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, Colorado, and Illinois. Early this year, Index Fresh also started operations at its new packing, bagging, and ripening facility in Pharr, TX.

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Shipping Trends from the Red River Valley, Ohio and Wisconsin

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DSCN0821Here’s a preview of Red River Valley potato plantings for product that will start shipping in late summer….Also, Mastrondardi Produce has opened another greenhouse operation….In Wisconsin, shipper is now distributing Badger State grown celery in the mid-west.

The USDA recently reports slightly fewer potatoes planted in North Dakota this as acres declined from 75,000 in 2017 to 74,000 acres this year.  The report shows more russets and fewer red potatoes were planted in North Dakota.  In 2017 reds accounted for 27 percent of the potato acres, in 2018 that fell to 18 percent.  Meanwhile russet acres jumped from 37 to 44 percent. White and yellow potato acres remained relatively steady at 36 and 2 percent respectively.

In Minnesota, the USDA reported 46,000 acres of potatoes planted, 2,000 fewer than last year.  Unlike North Dakota, there was little change in the potato type percentages.  Russets made up 69percent of the Minnesota potato crop, the same as last year. Next were reds at 19 percent (down 1 percent), whites steady at 10 percent and yellows moving from 1 to 2 percent.

Ohio Greenhouse

Mastronardi Produce is opening a sixth greenhouse in the U.S., with a 20-acre facility in Wapakoneta, Ohio.

The farm, known as The Ohio Greenhouse Company, will operate year-round, growing Sunset-brand products for shipment to  retailers in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Mastronardi Produce grows on more than 4,000 acres. The new Ohio farm gives the company the ability to triple the acreage there.

Wisconsin Shipping Celery

By Alsum Produce

Markesan, Wisconsin — Alsum Farms & Produce grower partner, Trembling Prairie Farms Inc. started harvesting  Wisconsin celery July 16th with the season expected to go through the first week of October.  Fields are located in the muck soils of Green Lake County.

In 2012, Trembling Prairie Farms started with 3 acres of celery and today has expanded to over 45 acres. The farm starts with a Midwestern selected celery variety that grows extremely well in the Wisconsin climate.

The process of growing celery starts in local greenhouses in late February to early April and is then transplanted in 12 different plantings. Celery planting in the muck soil begins on May 1 with the goal of the last planting to be in the ground by July 1.


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