Posts Tagged “COVID-19”

Ag Imports and Exports Forecast Lowered by U.S. Due to COVID-19

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The export and import forecast for the 2020 financial year due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been revised downward by the USDA.

The forecast also reports China has told state-owned agricultural companies to suspend purchases and cancel orders as tensions flare with the U.S. over the situation in Hong Kong. The report by the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) said: “The COVID-19 outbreak has created a shock to world economies that will cause an unusually high level of uncertainty for the foreseeable future.”

The organizations cut the U.S. agricultural export forecast for the 2020 financial year ending Sept. 30 to $135.5 billion, down $3 billion from the February forecast. This is primarily due to reductions in bulk commodities including soybeans, cotton, corn, and wheat.

The forecast for horticultural exports is unchanged at $35.5 billion. Whole and processed tree nuts are unchanged at $9.1 billion, with most shipments destined for Europe and Asia.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are steady at US $7.1 billion on stable shipments to top markets Canada and Mexico. Processed fruits and vegetables are unchanged at$7 billion on steady shipments to Canada.

Meanwhile, U.S. agricultural imports in 2020 are projected at $130.2 billion, down $2.3 billion from the February forecast. This decline is primarily driven by expected decreases in imports of horticultural products.

The forecasts for imports of fresh fruit and vegetables are reduced by $500 million and $200 million respectively, as these perishable products are vulnerable to spoilage when there are delays in the supply chain.

It said these delays are “due to precautionary steps having been added to the production and transportation processes and reductions in the availability of labor.”

The export and import figures, if realized, would mean the U.S. would have its smallest positive trade balances in years, just $6.3 billion. By comparison, in 2014 the country exported $152.3 billion and imported$109.3 billion of agricultural products, resulting in a positive trade balance of $43.1 billion.

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North America Increases Mexican Strawberry Imports by 23%, Reports Tridge

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Tridge, a global sourcing and market intelligence hub for food buyers and suppliers, has reported the latest market trends affecting the food and agriculture sector. This week the biggest news relates to a surge in demand for Mexican strawberries, which has increased its export rates by 11% since April.

In comparison to this time last year (April – June), the demand for the product in the global market has risen significantly. North America, for example, has increased its import rate for Mexican strawberries by 23%.

A similar trend has been witnessed for Mexican bananas. Despite prolonged lockdown in the country, exports for bananas have increased by 8% compared to 2019, with North America and Europe being the main export destinations.

However, Middle Eastern countries have experienced a decline in fruit imports from Mexico. This is due to a lack of air freight and trade restrictions across borders, resulting from the impacts of Covid-19.

Hoshik Shin, founder and CEO at Tridge, said: “While the impacts of Covid-19 are still impacting trade, our workforce has observed significant increases in the demand for fruits from European and North American importers.

“Weather conditions and labour shortages have affected harvest yields for some producers, meaning that importers will be looking for alternative suppliers. Using an online sourcing and trading platform such as Tridge will give buyers more options when looking for quality products at good prices.”

About Tridge

Tridge is a global trade ecosystem where buyers and suppliers of agricultural and food products can find everything they need to understand their markets with just a simple search. Using a combination of the latest digital technology and the latest insights gathered through a human network, they provide a very powerful global-scale platform for buyers and suppliers to connect and do business with each other more confidently.

Using a global network covering over 150 countries worldwide, Tridge has developed a comprehensive data set of 300,000,000+ prices and 1,600,000,000+ trade data points covering 1000+ items in the agriculture and food sector, and successfully facilitates the B2B and B2C trading of these items. Tridge aims to achieve digitalisation and globalisation of the trade industry.

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U.S. Imports Plunge in April Amid COVID-19 Concerns

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U.S. foodservice business in April plunged because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which apparently contributed to a steep fall in U.S. fruit and vegetable imports.

U.S. imports of fresh vegetables in April were $770.2 million, down 25 percent from March and off 6.5percent from April 2019, according to the USDA..

Imports of fruit (both fresh and frozen) in April were $1.27 billion, off 23 percent from March and down 17 percent from April 2019.

By commodity, imports of U.S. fresh produce in April, with percent change from April 2019, were:

  • Berries (excluding strawberries: $284.9 million, up 3 percent;
  • Bananas: $216 million, no change;
  • Avocados: $191 million, down 41 percent;
  • Tomatoes: $185 million, down 13 percent;
  • Peppers: $150 million, down 8 percent;
  • Grapes: $145 million, down 20 percent;
  • Strawberries: $118 million, no change;
  • Melons: $86 million, down 31 percent;
  • Cucumbers: $78 million, up 3 percent;
  • Pineapples: $50 million, down 25 percent; and
  • Mangoes: $48 million, down 17 percent.

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California Garlic Shipments are Just Getting Underway

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California garlic shipments are just getting started and strong demand is expected to continue as consumers do more home cooking and seek to boost immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christopher Ranch of Gilroy, CA is now shipping with its early garlic, which is the heirloom garlic variety, Lerg, that is slightly milder than the company’s late garlic proprietary heirloom, the Monviso variety.

This year’s California garlic shipments could hit about 100 million pounds, with 15 million pounds of early garlic and 85 million of late garlic.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic and closure of foodservice outlets in March, Christopher Ranch’s garlic shipments were split pretty evenly between foodservice and retail.

The company reports its peeled garlic for foodservice shipments basically went to zero the week of the first shelter-in-place. It required major adjustments as business suddenly included mostly retailers. Still, demand was described as “stratospheric.”


While Christopher Ranch had planned to carry 100 percent U.S.-grown garlic for the 2019-20 marketing season, increased demand in recent months required the grower/shipper to import about a third of its garlic mostly from Mexico and Argentina.

I Love Produce of Kelton, PA reports strong shipments during the COVID-19 pandemic for people seeking to boost immunity and cook at home. The company imports Chinese garlic and ginger.

The company report during the months of January and February roughly when China was shut down (because of COVID-19), that is when that spike in demand started. China is now shipping garlic at close to normal levels.

I Love Produce sees with new crop supply of garlic on tap from California, Spain and China, expanding supplies may take some of the pressure off tight supplies.

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California Pear Shipments to Get Normal Start in Early July

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California pear shipments will be getting off to a normal start in early July, after two years of late harvest starts,

Greene and Hemly of Courland, CA report Bartletts in California’s River District will start the season.

Growers are preparing for the season with an uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and safety of employees is factoring into preparation decisions.

“We employ 450 people in our farms and packinghouse,” Chiles Wilson, owner of Rivermaid Trading Co., Lodi, CA., said in a press release by the California Pear Bureau. “We want to make sure we can give them their jobs back this year. It’s not just about us as farmers but all the people we employ and their families.”

The California Pear Advisory Board is focusing on flavor, particularly on the effects of ethylene blocker 1-MCP, commonly used in storing different fruit to halt the ripening process.

California pear growers ship only new-crop pears. 

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Shopper Behaviors in Stores are Changing, Survey Shows

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Consumers are changing some of the ways they are buying and how they are navigating stores amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The information comes from a 2,000-person survey by Category Partners.

A little over 50 percent of respondents said they are purchasing more frozen foods and center-store items due to coronavirus, while roughly 40 percent said they are buying more fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh meat and dairy for the same reason. On the flip side, roughly 20 percent said they were buying less fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and fresh meat.

Overall, the vast majority of consumers appear to be buying the same amount of fresh produce and meat or more amid the coronavirus crisis, according to Category Partners.

The firm found that shoppers 45 and younger in particular tend to be buying more fresh produce and other fresh items.

“This increase in food purchases among younger consumers makes sense,” Cara Ammon, senior vice president of research and market intel for Category Partners, said in a news release. “Many are now working from home, or unfortunately are at home due to furlough, and many may have children home from school.

“Families have gone from eating lunches and even breakfasts at work and school and eating many dinners on the run to eating all of their meals at home,” Ammon said. “That makes a huge difference in their grocery purchases.”

The firm’s survey also indicated a shift toward packaged items, with 46 percent of respondents saying they are buying more packaged items and 25 of respondents saying they are avoiding loose items. More than 40% report avoiding self-service items like products from salad bars or soup bars, and 35 percent say they are avoiding products requiring store staff to handle the food.

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Thirty-six percent of respondents noted they are using self-checkout more often.

“Consumers have made significant changes to just about every aspect of their grocery shopping behavior,” Ammon said. “It will be interesting to see how many of these changes continue once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Some of these shopping behaviors may be here to stay.”

She noted that determining what consumers want at grocery retail will continue to be a moving target but that it is one worth pursuing.

“The lockdowns will end, the health crisis will abate, and consumers will have in-store and restaurant options once again,” Ammon said. “The larger economic pressures will linger a bit longer. The value to retailers and suppliers in being prepared to understand and offer solutions these consumers seek and need cannot be understated.”

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Port Everglades Expansion is on Track

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BROWARD COUNTY, FL – Broward County’s Port Everglades is advancing $1.6 billion in infrastructure improvements that are underway and expected to be completed in the next five years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly impacting this year’s bottom line, but we are fortunate that Port Everglades’ diversified business sectors of cargo, cruise and petroleum can address a dip in one business sector and be balanced out with stability in other revenue-generating business sectors. As a result, Port Everglades has a history of financial success and has budgeted for several sizeable construction projects that are moving forward at a rapid pace with little disruption from the virus,” said Port Everglades’ Glenn Wiltshire, Acting Chief Executive & Port Director.

Containerized CargoUnderway is a $471 million berth expansion, the largest infrastructure project in the Port’s history. The Southport Turning Notch Extension will add new cargo berths by lengthening the Port’s existing turn-around area from 900 feet to 2,400 feet. Part of this effort includes installing crane rail infrastructure for new Super Post-Panamax container gantry cranes.

Three Super Post-Panamax container-handling gantry cranes, valued at $41 million, are currently being manufactured in China by Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. Inc. (ZPMC) and expected to be in service by the end of 2020. The Port has an option to purchase three additional cranes within five years. The cranes are reportedly the largest low-profile container gantry cranes ever designed and built.

Deepening & Widening ChannelsThe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the preconstruction engineering and design phase of deepening the Port’s navigation channels from 42 feet to 48-50 feet and widening narrower sections of the channel for safe vessel passage.

In February 2020, this project received $29.1 million in funding under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers FY 2020 Work Plan. The funding will be used to build a new facility at U.S. Coast Guard Station Fort Lauderdale so the Intracoastal Waterway can be widened by 250 feet. Currently, this chokepoint in the channel puts operating restriction on large Neo-Panamax cargo ships, which affects their ability to transit past docked cruise ships. The Coast Guard Station reconfiguration is the first phase of the larger dredging project.

Cruise Parking GaragePort Everglades is building a new parking garage to serve Cruise Terminals 2 and 4. The new 1,818-space garage is currently under construction, with a Fall 2020 completion date. It will feature an air-conditioned bridge with moving walkways to deliver guests to Terminal 2, Princess Cruises’ prototype Ocean Medallion terminal. The Northport Garage, where passengers now park, will be dedicated to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward County Convention Center.

International Logistics CenterA new logistics center is being constructed at the Port through a public-private partnership with nationally recognized commercial developer CenterPoint Properties. The Port Everglades International Logistics Center, constructed on 16.657 acres of Port property, will be divided into two buildings with the southernmost building (±145,000 SF) scheduled to be completed by June 2020, and the northernmost building (±156,000 SF) slated for September 2020. The project will contain warehouse, refrigerated warehouse, office space, and cross-docking facilities, which will enhance the services available to shippers using Port Everglades. A portion of the logistics center will be activated as a Foreign-Trade Zone. 

Petroleum Slip ImprovementsPort Everglades and its petroleum industry partners are expanding Slip 1 to allow larger tankers to dock and offload more cargo per ship at a faster rate. The project will create measurable efficiencies and economies of scale. Dovetailing with the relocation and upsizing of private industry’s loading arms and manifold, equipped with updated valves and elevated piping, Port Everglades will invest $90-100 million in seawall, fenders, mooring bollards, and roadway, extending the facility’s life by up to 75 years.

About Port Everglades’ GrowthPort Everglades’ growth is guided by a carefully researched comprehensive Master/Vision Plan that maps out capital improvements and operational efficiencies over the next five-, 10- and 20-year horizons. Today’s infrastructure projects, some of which are described here, resulted from the original Master/Vision Plan adopted 12 years ago. The Port updates the Plan every 2-5 years to consider market trends, new technology, community development and environmental initiatives. The Plan is a roadmap that has steered Port Everglades to becoming the third largest cruise port in the world, one of the nation’s largest containerized cargo ports and South Florida’s main hub for gasoline and jet fuel.

The Port Everglades Department is a self-supporting Enterprise Fund of Broward County, Florida government with operating revenues of almost $170.7 million in Fiscal Year 2019 (October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019).  It does not rely on local tax dollars for operations. The total value of economic activity related to Port Everglades is nearly $33 billion. More than 219,000 Florida jobs are impacted by the Port, including 13,037 people who work for companies that provide direct services to Port Everglades.  For more information on Port Everglades, visit porteverglades.net or e-mail PortEverglades@broward.org.

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California Onion Shipments Coming Out of Desert before Moving North

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Following a start of loadings in mid-April, California’s onion shipments, which started in the Brawley area, will begin a gradual shift to more northern areas in June.

Gills Onions of Oxnard, CA launched it harvest April 15 in Brawley. The company’s largest growing region at Bakersfield has just started and will run into early September.

Coastline Family Farms of Salinas, CA has completed its Oregon onion season and has been shipping out of Brawley since early May. The company has controlled temperature storage, which can be important if the Imperial Valley heats sets in. Coastline ships primarily red and yellow onions.

JBJ Distributing Inc. of Fullerton, CA grows and ships onions from the Imperial Valley until mid-June before moving to Firebaugh for a month or two.

Supplies should be plentiful for retailers since the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the foodservice business.

Onions Etc. of Stockton, CA starts onion shipments start later than most, June 15 – 25, since it is mainly in Northern California.

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Imported Peruvian Avocados off to Good Start in U.S.

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Imported Peruvian avocados should hit 200 million pounds to the U.S. this year, according to the Peruvian Avocado Commission.

Significant volume is expected by mid-June, with the season continuing until late September.

Index Fresh Inc. of Riverside, CA received its first Peruvian avocados only a few days ago. The company’s foodservice demand dropped about 90 percent around Easter, but the situation seemed to be improving by early May. Foodservice sales at Index Fresh had risen to 50 to 60 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels.

Robinson Fresh of Prairie, MN received its first U.S. arrivals of Peruvian avocados on May 3, about the same time as last year The company expects volume to be higher this year than last.

Calavo Growers Inc. of Santa Paula, CA should see its first arrivals June 15-21.

Mission Produce Inc. of Oxnard, CA should be up slightly compared to last year,

First arrivals were expected in the U.S. the first half of June, just in time as Mexico’s crop winds down for the summer.

McDaniel Fruit Co., McDaniel Fruit Co. of Fallbrook, CA received its first fruit of the season the week of May 11.

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Fewer Vegetable Shipments Seen Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

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Fewer plantings of California leafy greens are expected to result in less shipments during the next few months. This is because of declines in foodservice demand related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

RaboResearch conversations with vegetable shippers reveal they are likely to cut acreage by 10 to 15 percent over the next 60 days.

Because of reduced demand over the past six weeks, growers for foodservice have walked away from fields. Many are hoping to redirect shipments to retailers.

The acreage not being used now represents 50 to 85 percent of the land normally planted for product destined to restaurants, schools and other foodservice accounts. Vegetables generally are directed to foodservice accounts more than fruits. Tomatoes and lettuce are two of the higher volume vegetables going to foodservice.

About 15 percent of fresh fruit is shipped for foodservice.

Retail performance

Increased shipments to retail have helped compensate for lagging foodservice demand.

Retail statistics for the four weeks ending April 12 reveal fresh produce sales increased 17 percent compared with the same period last year.

Fresh fruit sales were up about 9 percent for the four-week period, while fresh vegetable sales were up 25 percent.

Orange sales for the period were up 55 percent, but sales of grapes, melons and pears were down.

The 25 percent overall increase in vegetables was highlighted by gains in potatoes and sweet potatoes, at 80 percent and 55 increases, respectively.

Packaged salad sales for the four-week period ending April 12 were up only 7 percent.

On the plus side foodservice shipments are likely to increase when states end lockdowns.

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