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California Pear Shipments Expected to be Down this Season

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California pear growers began harvest in the River growing district this week with bartlett and red bartlett being the first varieties to be picked this year.

Harvest in the River District will be followed in early August with Mendocino district starting harvest on Aug. 5 and Lake County district starting on Aug. 12.

In comparison to last year’s crop, bartletts are expected to see an 18% decrease in production, while other pear varieties are projected to be down by 16%, Zanobini said.

“The total anticipated production for all varieties is estimated at 2,004,350 boxes,” said Chris Zanobini, executive director of the California Pear Advisory Board in a press release. “This volume includes organic bartlett pears and red pear varieties that are growing in popularity, as well as over 510,000 boxes of golden russet bosc pears.

The River growing district, which produces 66% of California’s pears, represents the largest volume of California grown pears, according to the release. The Lake County region is the second largest at 22%, followed by the Mendocino growing region which produced 12% of California’s 2023 pear crop.

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Rabobank: After 4 Years of Inflation Fatigue, Consumers Pull Back on Spending

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During the past four years inflation has battered consumers, and a Rabobank analysis says U.S. consumers have finally hit the wall.

In a report on the cost of a Fourth of July barbecue, Rabobank analysts said consumers are trading down and eating out less often in response to long-running inflation.

“The consumer is waving the white flag on food inflation,” Tom Bailey, senior consumer foods analyst at Rabobank, said in a news release. “With an added 2% in price hikes in 2024 coupled with the cost disparity between dining out and cooking at home at its widest margin in history, we’re seeing heightened fatigue and frugality.”

The 2024 Rabobank BBQ Index, which measures the cost of staple ingredients for a 10-person barbecue, shows that it will cost $99 to host a cookout on the Fourth of July this year, up from $97 last year and $73 in 2018. Cookout ingredients are 32% higher food costs in 2024 compared with 2019, according to Rabobank.

The index showed that the average U.S. consumer has to work an hour to earn enough money for a six-pack of beer and a burger in 2024, up from 51 minutes in 2019, and they’ll have to work nine hours to pay for a barbecue this year, up 32% since 2019.

Produce prices for the BBQ Index are mostly tame compared with a year ago, Rabobank economists said. California’s drought in 2023 sent lettuce prices to more than $100 a carton, well above the average range of $15 to $20 per carton. Rabobank analysts said lettuce prices have come down significantly in 2024.

“We expect leafy greens to have steady supplies, good quality and decent prices,” Rabobank economists said in the release.

Potatoes, also hit hard by drought last year, have rebounded with greater supply based on expanded acreage harvested in the fall of 2023. Potato prices are about half of year-ago levels, the index showed.

On the other side of the ledger, Rabobank analysts said tomato prices have moved higher in 2024 as dry weather in Mexico has curtailed production and overall availability.

Rabobank analysts said a reported 68% of people polled by Vericast say they are switching from restaurants — where the tab is up 4.4% annually — to grocery stores, which have seen only a 1.1% price.

Consumers are pulling back all purchases because of tight budgets, Rabobank officials said. Retail sales were weaker than expected in May as higher borrowing rates and inflation discouraged purchase decisions, Rabobank economists said.

“Retail sales will likely remain soft throughout 2024,” Bailey said.

Wages have not kept up with inflation. Credit card debt, on average, sits at $10,479 per household in the U.S., up from $8,763 in 2021. Forty-one percent of Americans polled by WalletHub say they have more credit card debt now than they did 12 months ago, the release said.

Government aid, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program emergency payments, the child tax credit, increased unemployment benefits and a suspension of student loan payments have ended, the release said. People under the age of 35 have been hit the hardest; credit card delinquencies in this demographic are at their highest level since 2011, according to the Federal Reserve.

“Fiscal fitness is now more of a focus,” Bailey said. “Saddled with mounting credit card debt, waning savings, and lower real income, consumers are spending less.”

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Where Is My Load? The Rise and Requirement of End-to-End Tracking

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By Jake Diana ALC San Francisco

The vast majority of individuals, both here in the U.S. and worldwide, have come to expect the seemingly guaranteed step-by-step updates that large distributors provide with each and every order submitted. So much so that it often feels like the end of the world when we don’t have that fresh “out for delivery” update on the day of projected receipt. In a world where everyone prefers to be as up-to-date as possible, it makes perfect sense that logistics and trucking companies would be required to provide tracking, right?

One of the biggest hot button topics in freight today is the exponential growth of thefts and scams. Given the integration and volume of texting and email into all walks of life, the evolution of 3PL carrier relationships is in a natural progression. While a general understanding of so-called “instant” communication would lead one to believe this makes the jobs of 3PL employees easier, the reality is that we are often faced with the scary question of “Where is my truck, and who is actually operating it?”

These days, tracking is no longer the eye-catching benefit it once was. Instead, it is now the standard, a bare minimum expectation when it comes to the growth of a 3PL customer relationship. The ability to go above and beyond tracking mandates is just as important as competitive rates or long-standing relationships. Prior to the last two to three years, carriers viewed tracking as bothersome, a form of micromanagement that signaled distrust. In just a short time, carriers are now not only familiar with tracking, but expect it. In a field full of uncertainties, what was once a selling point has rapidly developed into a pillar of the industry.


Jake Diana graduated from the University of Oregon in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in General Social Sciences. He joined the ALC San Francisco office in August 2022 as a broker’s assistant before being promoted to carrier sales representative and, most recently, carrier sales manager. Jake is a high-energy individual with a passion for competition, teamwork, and tech.

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Oceanside Pole Tomato Shipments are Underway

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Oceanside, CA — As the only pole-grown tomato operation west of the Mississippi, Oceanside Pole’s premium tomatoes started the week of June 24. The vine-ripe tomatoes are produced on a 700-acre farm in California and an additional 160 acres in Mexico. Product is exclusively marketed by Oppy.

Favorable weather conditions and an excellent season outlook set the expectation for 2.1 million cases of rounds and 1.2 million romas. The unique growing method raises the tomatoes off the ground to improve airflow — and therefore tomato quality — to ripen to their juicy, robust taste, naturally on the vine, then harvested at retail specifications to arrive at precise perfection. Each plant is harvested an average of 22 to 24 times, ensuring tomatoes are hand-selected at optimal ripeness.

“Our method ensures that we only deliver fruit with unmatched brix levels, robust flavor, extended shelf life and a clean-slicing texture,” said Director of Sales and Strategy, and Sales Executive Mark Smith. “Picking, packing, shipping and delivering to retailers within 24 hours, Oceanside Pole tomatoes are truly one-of-a-kind.”

Peak volume is expected from late August through October, culminating around the Thanksgiving season. Packaging options include 22-pound two-layer, 25-pound volume fill, 15-pound single-layer boxes, RPCs and a 5-pound club pack, catering to the diverse needs of retailers, including custom pack styles.

Senior Sales Representative James Galindo has been documenting the entire season through Oppy’s video series: Reports from the field. These monthly updates, which began in January, provide an inside look at the meticulous efforts involved in growing Oceanside Pole tomatoes.A

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Summer Fruit and Vegetable Shipments from the Carolinas are Looking Good

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The South Carolina Specialty Crop Growers Association reports
it has been a favorable beginning to the season in South Carolina.

Unlike recent seasons, blueberries and peaches have not been hit with late freezes. The result has been increased volume and better quality.

South Carolina growers are hit a peak in the strawberry season nearly a month ago, and blueberries and blackberries followedsuit.

Peach shipments have ramped entering the summer months alongside other summer crops like peppers, watermelon and squash.

In North Carolina it is a similar situation.

Jackson Farming Co. in Autryville, N.C., wrapped up its spring broccoli season early in part to a warmer-than-normal spring growing season.

Cantaloupe loadings got underway in late June. The company’s
honeydew loading started in early July, which followed seedless and watermelon with seeds the last week of June.

The farm is still using shipping sweet potatoes from storage and crews are planting this fall’s crop. Harvest should begin in late August or early September.

An increase in watermelon production is expected for North Carolina growers this year, with cantaloupe remaining level. Spring broccoli production remained the same.

 Many growers in North Carolina plant both tobacco and sweet potatoes as the seasons are complementary. However, many growers opted to expand sweet potato acres as the tobacco market waned. It is estimated that 2021 was the largest sweet potato acreage of about 130,000. Since then, the acreage has started to drop to 85,000 in 2022 and 80,000 in 2023. 

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43% of Truckloads Moved Less than Half Full in 2023, Study Reveals

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Flock Freight and Drive Research has released a study revealing 43% of truckloads in 2023 moved partially empty, with an average of 29 linear feet of unused deck space.

The inefficiency equates to 1 in 4 truckloads moving empty, representing a significant economic and environmental concern.

Called “Wasted Space, Wasted Dollars: The Economic Impact of Inefficient Freight,” the study examines the costs associated with underutilized truckload space and the inefficiencies of less-than-truckload shipping, according to a news release. It surveyed 1,000 transportation decision-makers in the U.S. from various industries, providing a view of the challenges and strategies employed to drive efficiency.

“Historically, the U.S. truckload market has been locked into a binary concept of ‘full’ or ‘empty’ when it comes to trailer capacity,” Chris Pickett, chief operating officer at Flock Freight, said in the release. “We are challenging both shippers and carriers alike to rethink this. With 43% of truckloads moving only partially full, there’s a massive opportunity for businesses to maximize trailer utilization and reduce overall transportation spend with our Shared Truckload solution.”

The research highlights the hidden costs of less-than-truckload shipping, with the average enterprise shipper incurring up to $6.3 million annually in damage and loss claims, the release said. Additionally, unexpected accessorial fees and the time spent by employees managing these issues add to the financial burden on businesses.

Exiting a deflationary phase of the truckload freight cycle in 2024, the industry braces for heightened economic impacts, the release said. As a result, 90.8% of shippers have raised their budgets by 1% to 10% to navigate the expected market shifts.

The study also found growing concerns around fraud and theft within the freight industry. In 2023, 89% of shippers were affected by these issues, with 1 in every 43 shipments impacted, the release said, which leads to direct financial losses and causes a ripple effect of reduced earnings, unexpected fines and a decline in customer satisfaction.

The whitepaper sheds light on the problems and presents innovative solutions, and it serves as a resource for shippers seeking to uncover new opportunities to reduce costs within their transportation programs, the release said.

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West Coast Heat Wave Affecting Lettuce, Vegetable Quality

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(The following press release was issued July 9 by Markon of Salinas, CA. Lettuce and vegetable haulers are urged to use caution in loading to help reduce chances of claims at destination, by working closely with your brokers and receivers.)

Much of the West Coast, including California’s Salinas and Santa Maria Valleys, have been experiencing an extended heat spike over the past week with temperatures ranging from the 70°s to 80°s near the coast to as high as 110° in the southern end of the Salinas Valley.

All row crop vegetables that have been exposed to these temperatures are expected to exhibit varying levels of heat-related quality and shelf-life concerns over the next two weeks.

In general, most commodity and value-added supplies have faired better than expected thus far, but some lettuce and tender leaf crops are showing defects such as:

• Dehydration
• Increased insect pressure
• Internal burn/tip burn
• Reduced shelf-life potential
• Weakened texture
• Yellowing leaves

Markon inspectors are aggressively monitoring quality through pre-harvest inspections and finished product evaluations of commodity and value-added items. Fields that are exhibiting elevated issues are being rejected and harvesting/processing crews are taking steps to remove damaged leaves and minimize defects.

Ordering for quick turns is recommended. It remains critical to adhere to strict cold chain management throughout distribution to the end-user level in order to maximize quality and shelf-life of perishable produce items.

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Ohio Vegetable Loadings are Underway with Good Volume

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Good-quality Ohio vegetables are being predicted thanks to good weather and timely rains, which had vegetable shipments starting right on time at the end of June, according to growers and shippers.

Buurma Farms Inc. of Willard, OH notes there has good growing weather and rains.

The grower/shipper grows about 35 commodities, including radishes, greens, green onions, several kinds of lettuce items, beets, cucumbers and green and yellow squash.

Because of volume and the number of different veggies grown, the company notes it results in fewer multiple pickups for truckers.

All the commodities were being shipped by the end of June except sweet corn, which gets underway in mid-July.

The company ships to customers up and down the Eastern Seaboard, as far south as Florida, into the New England area and west to Chicago, Wisconsin and Memphis.

Buurma reports it has a freight rate advantage over growers in the West with loads that originate east of the Mississippi.

Sirna & Sons Produce of Ravenna, OH, was acquired by FreshEdge of Indianapolis last July and has added new computer and phone systems, upgraded GPS systems in trucks, conducted training programs and is preparing to implement a warehouse management system.

Sirna & Sons offers a variety of local products, such as peppers, squash, tomatoes and greenhouse lettuces.

Holthouse Farms of Ohio Inc., Willard, is shipping squash, bell peppers, chili peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, Ohio green beans, hard squash, sweet corn and cabbage and will have all commodities moving by mid-July,

Holthouse Farms ships to a number of retail, foodservice and wholesale customers in the Ohio Valley and in western Pennsylvania to New Jersey, New York City and into Detroit, Chicago and Kentucky.

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Examining Whether Eating Berries Reduces the Effects of Stress

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More consumption of berries has been associated with reduced stress indicators, according to a study by Penn State University. Published in the journal Nutrients, the research looked at the link between berry consumption and the allostatic load in U.S. adults.

According to the research abstract, allostatic load is an aggregate measure of chronic stress-induced indicators across cardiovascular, metabolic, autonomic and immune systems. The research found that greater consumption of berries was associated with a lower composite allostatic load score.

“The mean [allostatic load] composite scores for consumers of any berries (11.9), strawberries (11.6), and blueberries (11.6), respectively, were significantly lower than nonconsumers (12.3), after fully adjusting for sociodemographic, lifestyle, and dietary confounders,” the abstract said. “A significant dose-response relationship was determined between greater consumption of total berries, strawberries, and blueberries and lower mean [allostatic load] composite scores.”

In conclusion, researchers said that “increasing berry intake is a simple dietary modification that could reduce stress-related morbidity/comorbidity and promote health.”

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Strong Melon Shipments are Expected During July and Beyond

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The Organic Produce Network reports that warm weather and a smooth transition from spring to summer in production areas have resulted in a good supply of several organic melon varieties.

Creekside Organics Inc. of Bakersfield, CA reports strong demand for watermelons, including both organic mini watermelons (also called personal watermelons) and large-sized fruit, typically referred to as bin melons, are being shipped. There are also good supplies of organic honeydew and cantaloupes.

Creekside notes there are still organic melon supplies coming from Mexico, and the company is also sourcing significant volumes from farming operations in Holtville in California’s Imperial Valley.

The company moves up the Joaquin Valley as the summer continues, with both the Bakersfield area in Southern San Joaquin Valley and Firebaugh on the west side of the valley producing various melon varieties.

The grower/shipper reports good supplies of cantaloupes, honeydew, and mini watermelons through September. 

Pacific Trellis Fruit of Los Angeles states the company expects to have a good supply of organic mini and bin watermelons throughout the summer.

The company has finished up production in Hermosillo, Mexico, and is winding down Yuma, AZ. In July the operation will transition to California, providing good supplies of minis through the summer.

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