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Having spent 13 years with Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., in early November, Mike Shields rejoined the staff at Pompano Beach, FL-based Central American Produce Inc. as director of new business development.

Mr. Shields told The Produce News Nov. 29 that he served Del Monte in different capacities, including being a regional vice president of Del Monte's southeast and central regions. He once ran Del Monte’s fresh-cut facility in Plant City, FL. But Mr. Shields started his produce career with Central American Produce, working with the firm for eight years before joining Del Monte.

The Central American melon deal began at Central American Produce with "very limited supplies" the week of Nov. 22, Mr. Shields said. “The quality is outstanding. We will slowly build on volume. So far, the quality is excellent and everyone we have shipped to has had nothing but rave reviews.”

By the third week of December, “we will have more-plentiful supplies and better promotional opportunities for retailers” with Central American melons.

The season’s first melons were from Guatemala’s Zacapa growing district. Central American Produce has a high-elevation Guatemalan farm that will begin shipping in late December or early January. Thus, the firm will ship from Guatemala throughout the winter.

Central American Produce will bring “some product out of Honduras in early 2011.”

In the cantaloupe business, “we are shipping the 'Caribbean Gold’ Harper variety. It is doing well.” The firm’s honeydew shipments were also underway in November.

Mr. Shields said that the industry consensus is that “some people brought down” their Central American melon volume “to some degree. We should have a steady supply, steady pricing and good quality all the way through.”