The only thing new for Bernardi & Associates Inc., coming into the 2010-11 Nogales
season, is the opening of an office in McAllen, TX, said Joe Bernardi, president.
Headquartered in Nogales, AZ, Bernardi & Associates also has seasonal offices in
San Diego, in Turlock, CA, and in Fort Meyers, FL. When The Produce News talked to
Mr. Bernardi by phone Nov. 30, he was in the Turlock office where he has been for
the summer and fall, mainly working the California tomato deal. As always, he will
head down to Nogales by the first of the year.
Bernardi & Associates is in the business of brokering tomatoes, mixed vegetables,
melons and some other commodities from all growing districts both in the United
States and Mexico. Nogales continues to be the biggest volume deal for the
company, according to Mr. Bernardi.
With regard to the Nogales operation this year, "things are pretty much status quo
for us out there," he said. But “we have opened an office in McAllen to facilitate our
loading out of there. As more of the Nogales shippers direct product to McAllen” or
other south Texas ports of entry, and as growers in eastern Mexico bring more
product up through south Texas, “we felt that there was a need for us to be there.
So we are on the ground there full-time from now on.”
Mr. Bernardi emphasized that the company's reason for opening the McAllen office
is purely logistical. “It was a need for us to be there because of the volume of
products crossing down there, and not to supply any different market that we
weren’t supplying already,” he said. Bernardi & Associates was already selling and
servicing “the whole country” from its other locations.
Staffing the McAllen office is Jose Suarez who has been there since Nov. 1 and “will
stay out there,” he said. “In Nogales, we will have myself, Manny Gerardo and Alex
Leon,” with Mariana Celeya as office manager and four full-time quality control
Joseph De La Rosa and Rob Watrous will staff the Florida office, and the San Diego
office as well as the Turlock office will be closed for the winter.
Looking ahead to the Nogales season, “we are going to see more shadehouse-
grown product and more hothouse-grown product,” Mr. Bernardi said. “I have heard
there is a little bit of a whitefly problem down there” on some of the open field
crops, “but that is one of the benefits of shadehouses ... to prevent any insect-
Growing conditions to date “have been real good,” he said, although “anything can
still happen in December and January — and often does. But at this point, I think we
are looking at good yields with good quality. And hopefully we will have the kind of
distribution around the country that results in good prices for the growers and
good marketing opportunities across the board.”
Tomato prices were low in California during the summer and fall, “coming off the
high winter prices” in Nogales last year. “A couple of items during the summer,
prices tried to firm up a little bit,” he said. But “for the most part our prices were on
the lower end all summer and even the fall. In the fall we usually, at some point,
have a little spike, and that really never happened this year.”
While new production in eastern Mexico may have contributed, Mr. Bernardi
attributed the low prices more to the fact that “there was no knockout weather
anywhere across the country, so every regional deal around the United States had
product. Unfortunately, in our industry anymore, it almost takes one area to get
hurt for another area to have a good year, and this summer, that never happened.”
The same scenario appeared likely to continue into the winter deals out of Mexico
and Florida, he said. “There have been no hurricanes in Florida, and no abnormal
rain, and the Mexican weather has been good.” Again, “anything can happen in
December and January. We’re not out of the woods yet. But at this point, I would
expect both areas to have good quality on big yields,” and that usually results in “a
cheap tomato market.”
No one likes to see a cheap tomato market, Mr. Bernardi said. “It doesn’t do
anybody any good anywhere through the chain. We need those moderate prices.
Unfortunately, we don’t seem to be in that moderate range anymore. We have the
extremes — extreme lows or extreme highs — and not a whole lot in between, and
that is where we need to be. We need those $8 to $12 markets that we never seem
to stay in anymore.”