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COMPANY PROFILES

Figs are elixir for Western Fresh’s Kragie
It might be a bit of an exaggeration, but figs are the reason George Kragie is still in the produce industry today and not contemplating retirement. “I’m 71 years old and still love managing the fig deal,” said Kragie, president of Western Fresh Marketing, based in Madera, CA. “They are the reasons I continue to work at the same pace.” Fresh whole and cut Calimyrna and Mission figs from Western Fresh.Of course he also mentioned that he just finished planting four... Read more
California Giant Berry Farms ready for a prosperous spring
For 48 years, California Giant Berry Farms has been passionate about the berry business and over that time, the company has grown to become a leader in the industry. Currently, strawberries comprise about 80 percent of the Watsonville, CA-based company’s business, with blueberries coming in at 10 percent and blackberries and raspberries combining for the remaining 10 percent. While this has been consistent over the years, the company is starting to see blueberries... Read more
Consumers to begin seeing outstanding  crop of New Zealand KORU apples
This marks the sixth year New Zealand’s KORU apples have been marketed in the United States, with popularity continuing to grow. Jim Allen, vice president of marketing for New York Apple Sales in Glenmont, NY, said the first New Zealand KORUs of the season started arriving on both east and west coasts in late April. “We are thrilled at the quality of this season’s crop,” said Allen. “The KORUs are exceptional and living up to initial reports from New Zealand on... Read more
WP Rawl remains a  pillar of the community
Ashley Rawl, vice president of sales, marketing and product development for the family-run Walter P Rawl & Sons Inc., based in Pelion, SC, said agriculture has long been one of South Carolina’s biggest prides and the Rawl family has been farming the land since 1925, doing so while being sustainable and giving back to its local and global communities. The company supports and works with many organizations in the state, such as Katie’s Krops, Harvest Hope, LICS,... Read more
M. Levin & Co. welcomes fifth generation family member to its team
Multi-generational family owned and operated, M. Levin & Co. was one of the initial companies to move into the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market when it opened in 2011. Company president, Mark Levin, said that in May the company’s long-time tropicals buyer and salesman, Bill DeFelice, would retire.  “Bill has spent the past 54 years in the produce industry,” said Levin. “We are sad to see him go but wish him the best in his retirement.” Brian Kriebel... Read more
After 70 years, Procacci Brothers is still innovating
Celebrating its 70th year in business, Procacci Brothers Sales Corp. always has something new in the pipeline. In addition to its headquarters facility, the Philadelphia-based company has a major presence at the nearby Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market. In mid-April, Rick Feighery, vice president of sales told The Produce News that the company was moving forward following the death of Joseph G. Procacci, chief executive officer and chairman, last November. “His... Read more
Titan Farms focuses on four pillars
South Carolina is home to a booming produce industry and is among the top five states producing watermelons, cantaloupe and leafy greens, and maybe more importantly, the second-largest peach producing state in the country. “At Titan Farms, we are the largest producer of peaches in South Carolina, with more than 6,000 acres and also lead the state in bell peppers at 700 acres, broccoli at 600 acres and eggplant at 50 acres,” said Daryl Johnston, vice president of... Read more
A steady program serves Wiers Farm
Again in 2018, “a very wide assortment” of Eastern and Western vegetables solidly remain on the production list of Wiers Farm Inc., located in Willard, OH. Ben Wiers, a fourth-generation member in the family business, said the farm has the soils to produce the variety of commodities. In the “Eastern veg” category are bell peppers and all the hot pepper varieties, cucumbers and summer squash. The “Western veg” category at Wiers includes sweet corn, dill, cilantro... Read more
Skyline stays the course for 2018 potato program
Expecting the 2017 storage crop to run well into the summer, Skyline Potato General Manager Les Alderete said in late April demand was good and prices have held steady so far in 2018. He said no major changes are planned for the conventional russet and organic russet and red program.Les Alderete “Our supplies will go through the end of July,” Alderete reported from his Center, CO, office. “The price has been steady, but demand has been a little slower than normal.... Read more
Fagerberg in year two of organic onion program
Colorado Front Range onion grower-shipper Fagerberg Farms and Fagerberg Produce saw a good season with its first commercial loads of organic onions in 2017, and Ryan Fagerberg, company president and warehouse manager, said the certified production is a good addition to the overall program. “There are no major changes to acreage or varieties this year,” he said, adding that a few more acres are being farmed east of the main facility in Eaton. The program remains... Read more
Monte Vista Potato Growers continues steady growth curve
With 2018’s crop being planted in late April and 2017 potatoes running until the end of July, Monte Vista Potato Growers near Monte Vista continues to expand in volume and in shipments, particularly to Mexico. General Manager Jason Tillman said in mid-April the cooperative now is made up of 11 growers, and he said volume has increased 35 percent in the past year as a result of good yields and the additional acreage.Jason Tillman “We had eight growers when I started... Read more
FreshXperts transfers full ownership to industry veteran Anthony Totta
FreshXperts, a consulting group for the fresh produce industry, announced that it has restructured to provide better service to clients and more autonomy for its consulting members. Anthony Totta, a founding member and industry veteran who has spent more than 30 years working in the produce industry, has assumed total ownership of FreshXperts. Furthermore, the organization's back office operations will join its corporate headquarters in Kansas City, relocating from... Read more
Great weather sets up Prime Time for spring deals
Speaking under sunny skies with temperatures hovering in the low 80s on April 13, Mike Way of Prime Time International in Coachella, CA, said the “perfect conditions” should give the company a great supply of its spring crops over the next couple of months. “We’ve had a very warm winter with no cold spells in Coachella,” he said. “We had three or four days earlier in the week with some hot weather, but the forecast for the next two weeks is 80-90 degrees. That... Read more
Tudor Ranch’s season  to start off strong
With some land that tends to produce an early crop and relatively new Flame Seedless vines, Tudor Ranch Inc. in Mecca, CA, is expected to start the 2018 Coachella Valley grape deal with good volume. Andy EconomouAt least that was the view of longtime grape veteran Andy Economou of Tastyfrutti International Inc. in Philadelphia, which has helped sell that grower’s production for many, many years. Economou was planning on arriving in Coachella on May 7 or 8, the... Read more
Flavor is first in Georgia
While Flavor 1st Growers & Packers operates out of Mills River, NC, the company has a farm in Rebecca, GA. That farm grows 700 acres of beans (green, KY and wax), 100 acres of summer squash (green and yellow), 50 acres of grape tomatoes, 25 acres of Tasti-Lee tomatoes and 25 acres of green Bell peppers. “Our partner on this farm, Dan King (King Ranch Farms), also has 200 acres of watermelons and 250 acres of cantaloupe,” said Mike Porter, sales manager for... Read more
With 2018’s crop being planted in late April and 2017 potatoes running until the end of July, Monte Vista Potato Growers near Monte Vista continues to expand in volume and in shipments, particularly to Mexico. General Manager Jason Tillman said in mid-April the cooperative now is made up of 11 growers, and he said volume has increased 35 percent in the past year as a result of good yields and the additional acreage. “We had eight growers when I started six-and-a-half... Read more
As a means to cope with water shortages in Colorado’s Lower Arkansas Valley, Hirakata Farms in Rocky Ford will cut back its melon acreage this season, according to sales rep Gene Schneider. “There’s a drought situation in the Arkansas Valley,” Schneider said. “Last year we suffered from it as well.” He noted that water officials have told growers to plan on a 40 percent reduction in surface water. “That means we have to cut back on acreage in most of our crops,”... Read more
As he nears his three-year anniversary as manager of the San Luis Valley Research Center, Tyler Thompson said the upgrades and changes at Colorado State University’s College of Ag Sciences facility north of Monte Vista are too numerous to list. Just in the past year, Thompson said, the potato research center has seen the development of a continuous sterilizing seed cutter, improved and buried electrical utilities, the acquisition of a self-propelled Lenco potato... Read more
Blueberry interest up for Gourmet Trading
As blueberry category manager for Gourmet Trading Co., Luciano Fiszman works side-by-side with growers and the sales team in order to move the crop in each region and grow the programs with customers, season after season. “We focus on grower and customer service, we care about quality, food safety, logistics and delivering what we promise,” he said. “Success comes from time. Time for your team. Time for your growers. Time for your customers. Time to plan. Time... Read more
Experience, partnerships, encouragement drive G&R Farms
G&R Farms is an experienced, year-round supplier of sweet onions. “To be a success in this segment one needs to be savvy, very diversified, very cash flow flexible, and one must be able to adjust quickly to market and weather problems thrown at you,” said Walt Dasher, co-owner of G&R Farms, based in Glennville, GA. “My family has been in the Vidalia business longer than anyone else in the industry. I like to say we are like the Farmers Insurance... Read more

RECENT HEADLINES

$200M Kroger merger to revolutionize mealtime
The Kroger Co. and Home Chef, a private meal kit company, announced a merger agreement that will significantly accelerate availability of meal kits and position the combined company to lead the way in revolutionizing how families shop for, prep, and cook their meals. The initial transaction price is $200 million and future earnout payments of up to $500 million... Read more
North Carolina consumers going loco for local
When June rolls around, North Carolina’s crops really start to rock. This is the time North Carolina becomes one of the most important produce providing states on the East Coast. G.W. Stanley, domestic marketing manager for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, said the department is working with retailers in North Carolina — both large chains and independents... Read more
Produce industry veteran Steve Lutz joins PMA
Produce industry veteran Steve Lutz will expand Produce Marketing Association’s West Coast presence when he joins the association’s staff next month as regional vice president — U.S. and Canada West. In this newly created senior-level position, Lutz will engage with members in the region to help them make the most of PMA’s year-round value, to grow their respective... Read more
Ahold Delhaize's new division
Ahold Delhaize USA announced the creation of a new entity, Peapod Digital Labs, which will drive digital and eCommerce innovation, technology and experience to meet the changing needs of customers of its local brands, regardless of when, where and how consumers choose to shop. JJ Fleeman has been named as president of Peapod Digital Labs and chief ecommerce officer. "We... Read more
170 million pounds of Peruvian avocados coming this summer
As the world’s insatiable appetite for avocados continues to skyrocket, the Peruvian Avocado Commission is thrilled to be kicking off it’s 2018 season with many exciting retail and consumer focused marketing initiatives. Beginning in June and in celebration of World Avocado Month, Avocados From Peru is the exclusive sponsor of various exciting activations in... Read more
Retailer's produce managers are Tops
Tops Friendly Markets, a full-service grocery retailer in New York, northern Pennsylvania and Vermont, announced its 2018 Produce Managers of the Year. Nominees from each district were evaluated on several criteria, including sales growth, overall department conditions, and development of associates, customer interaction, merchandising, shrink and profitability.... Read more
Avocados from Peru and California Walnuts join forces on superfoods promotion
Avocados From Peru is joining forces with California Walnuts to promote two of the world’s most potent superfoods through the first-ever in-store tasting collaboration between two nutrient-rich powerhouse foods. The in-store tastings will be held at Costco, Sam’s Club and Walmart in the United States, and Costco in Europe with the World Avocado Organization.  “We... Read more
Avocados From Peru's new mascot
Avocados From Peru introduced its new brand mascot as part of a refreshed 2018 social media strategy. The mascot imagery draws inspiration from Peru's heritage and the existing Peruvian Avocado logo. The updated look incorporates hand-drawn elements, pops of color and modernized typography into a unique and flexible brand package. Cultural elements are introduced... Read more
FPAA's new chairman takes over at annual meeting
Members of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas held their annual meeting May 15, in Nogales, AZ. The annual meeting is an opportunity for members to discuss key actions from the previous year with detailed updates from the FPAA’s president, chairman and staff. In addition, the annual meeting is the opportunity to vote for board members to fill the terms... Read more
Vision Import Group to see first shipment of Argentinean lemons in years
After almost 17 years of being absent from the United States due to previous trade restrictions, Argentinean lemons are returning to the U.S., and Vision Import Group LLC expects to receive its first shipment this week. Ronnie Cohen, a principal at Vision Import Group, based in Hackensack, NJ, said there is great anticipation for Argentinean lemons in the market.... Read more
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has imposed sanctions on two produce businesses for failure to pay reparation awards issued under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. LDS Food Distributors Inc., operating out of Chicago, failed to pay a $46,154 award in favor of a Texas seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Amado Acosta and Cecilia... Read more
Campbell Soup Co.’s foray into fresh appears to be a flop. The Camden, NJ-based company best known for its soups entered the fresh segment with its $1.55 billion acquisition of Bolthouse Farms in 2012, heralding the move as a new direction for the company that would provide a new avenue for growth. At the time of the acquisition, Campbell Chief Executive Officer... Read more
Argentine lemons break 17-year drought
This past week, Seald Sweet welcomed the arrival of the first containers of Argentine fresh lemons in 17 years to the U.S. “Argentine lemons are considered the top lemons in the world with superior juice quality and content,” said Mayda Sotomayor, chief executive officer of Seald Sweet. “We are thrilled to be able to bring this quality, fresh product to U.S.... Read more
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's most recent Florida citrus crop forecast of 44.95 million boxes of oranges for the 2017-18 season is 50,000 boxes down from the April estimate and 9 million boxes down from the 54 million boxes predicted at the start of the season. The forecast represents a decline of more than 80 percent since the peak of citrus production... Read more
Organic produce category driving sales
Two separate pieces of data released this month clearly show that the organic category continues to be a solid driver of growth at retail — and devotees are committed to the category. The Organic Produce Network released scan data showing that organic fresh produce sales started 2018 strong with 8 percent dollar and volume growth compared to the first quarter... Read more
Partnership enhances Kroger's digital and robotics capabilities
The Kroger Co. and online supermarket Ocado announced an exclusive partnership agreement in the United States that will accelerate Kroger's creation of a seamless shopping experience for America's families. The alliance will bring to the U.S. for the first time the unparalleled technology underpinnings of the Ocado Smart Platform, which includes online ordering,... Read more
Michigan vegetables start a little late
HART, MI — Like much of the nation, winter lingered in Michigan this spring. Vegetable growers are running late, but overall the condition of Michigan crops look good. As The Produce News toured key Michigan growing areas the week of May 7, grower-shippers were mostly comfortable that their blooming crops would be safe from a spring freeze.Nick Osmulski of North... Read more
NWPB takes watermelon-on-the-go
Convenient and portable may not be the first qualities that come to mind when you think of a big, whole watermelon; however, the National Watermelon Promotion Board is challenging that thinking and creating new occasions for eating watermelon. NWPB recently visited Time Inc. Food Studios in Birmingham, AL, to demonstrate endless ideas for watermelon-on-the-go... Read more
U.S. Customs & Border Protection Office of Field Operations CBP officers at Laredo Port of Entry recently apprehended three pedestrians in connection with the seizure of alleged methamphetamine with a street value of $331,000 hidden within cans of produce. “Our frontline officers continue to maintain vigilance while conducting their inspections and the judicious... Read more
BJ's CEO takes on new role
BJ's Wholesale Club announced that Christopher J. Baldwin, president and chief executive officer, has added chairman of the board of directors to his responsibilities, effective immediately. Laura Sen has announced her retirement from the Board. The company also announced that Nishad Chande has joined the board of directors. "I'm pleased to be named chairman... Read more

Today's Headlines

 

MARKETS AND TRENDS

No end in sight for Southeast rain
Rain continues in Florida with no end in sight. Yesterday saw heavy rains in the Palmetto/Ruskin area where they are harvesting spring tomatoes. The total was close to 1.5 inches. Florida is expecting a respite today, but starting tomorrow through Wednesday of next week there is a 50 to 90 percent chance of rain every day with totals of more than three inches... Read more
Unseasonable Florida rains affecting harvests
Unseasonable rains continue in the Sunshine and Peach states. Up and down the state of Florida and throughout Georgia there are high probabilities of rain for the next 10 days, with daily totals of 0.25 inches to an inch. This type of daily rain usually doesn’t arrive until sometime in June. Look for harvests to be affected and a potential spike in pricing across... Read more
Record heat, an early rainy season and peachy keen blues
Depending on which city in the Coachella Valley you follow for weather info there is record-tying heat this week going back almost 80 years. Today, tomorrow and Thursday will see a high temp of 107. The last time it was this hot on May 8 you have to go back to 1941; the hottest day on record for May 9 was 108 back 2001, and the for May 10 it was 109 in 1934.... Read more
At least one heat wave is coming to a close
While heat waves persist in many growing areas, Leamington, ON, is beginning to cool off. Right now lettuces and veg out of Salinas and Watsonville, CA, are looking good on volumes and quality; and Georgia has a great mix of blueberries, beans, broccoli, carrots, cukes and squash. Light volumes of Coachella Valley watermelons and grapes are... Read more
Heat waves hitting western U.S., eastern Canada
A cold front will make its way through California today, but temps will be back to normal tomorrow and later this week we will see the start of a heat wave in California's desert regions and the Central Valley. The Coachella Valley will see highs in the 100s starting Friday with a peak high of 107 on Sunday, May 6. Yuma, AZ, will have a peak high of 105 on Sunday.... Read more
Freeze takes a bite out of cherry crop
The February freezes in California's San Joaquin Valley brought temps down to the 20s, and now they bring the estimate down for this season's crop of cherries. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is predicting the Central Valley crop will come in at 3.9 million compared to an original estimate of 9.5 million pounds -- about 40 percent of what was... Read more
Broccoli, lettuce and berry volume ready to ramp up
Salinas and Santa Maria, CA, should have excellent weather for the next 10 days. Volume of broccoli, lettuces and berries should begin to ramp up. The anticipated heat out west will start tomorrow, with temperatures 10 to 15 degrees above normal. Highs in the San Joaquin Valley will be in the mid-80s all next week with deserts in the high 90s. Monday will be... Read more
Western veggies, melons on the way, but where are the blueberries?
The heat wave coming to the desert southwest and the San Joaquin Valley this weekend will last through the end of next week at least. High temps will start Saturday. The Coachella Valley, Imperial Valley and western Arizona will see highs in the low 100s -- about 20 degrees higher than average for this time of year -- and minimums in the high 60s. Next week... Read more
Heat helps Coachella Valley pick and pack
Strong winds out west will continue throughout the next several days, peaking next Monday with wind speeds of up to 25 miles per hour up and down California. Temperatures will also be well below normal next Monday when a cold front will come through the state with a chance of rain. We will see temps down into the low 40s near Salinas, Santa Maria, Oxnard and... Read more
Weather not too peachy in Georgia; Coachella Valley feeling the heat
A cold spell is hitting Georgia with temperatures in the 40s and 30s. Warmer weather and about an inch of rain is expected over the weekend, but the cold will return early next week. Look for production to slow and possibly delay peach and berry production. In the Coachella Valley triple-digit temperatures will break on Wednesday, April 11 for two days and then... Read more
Western veggies heat up while berries get a cold shower
Berries are expected to get hit with rain on both coasts, as California gets about an inch of rain this weekend and Florida is projected to get more than half an inch on Monday and Tuesday. Below average temps are expected in Georgia with rain between one and 1.5 inches on Monday. The storm hitting Northern California looks to be lighter than previously expected,... Read more
Powerful storm could halt Northern California harvest
A strong storm is coming to Northern California and the San Joaquin Valley this weekend, with the potential to drop between 1.5 inches and two inches of rain in a 24-hour period.   Chances of rain this weekend in California have increased since Friday. We are now looking at an 80-100 percent chance of rain on Friday and Saturday depending on location. This... Read more
The heat is on, it's on the fields
Heat has aririved in the Coachella Valley. Highs have been in the 90s all week, and this weekend will reach a maximum of 97 degrees on Saturday and Sunday and stay in the mid-90s all next week. Look for spring crops, including Bell peppers, corn, eggplant, green beans and tomatoes, to come on quickly. Later crops of watermelons and grapes could move up their... Read more
Temperatures and production warming up
A heat wave is heading to the Southwest. Starting Wednesday, March 28, above-average temps will arrive in the San Joaquin Valley, as well as the Coachella and Imperial valleys, Yuma AZ, and northern Mexico for the next 10 days. Highs will be 12-18 degrees above normal. Look for the spring crops out of Coachella Valley and lower San Juaquin Valley to... Read more
Mind the (berry) gap; Cold storm headed California's way
The latest storm cleared through California late last night. Final rain totals topped out at two-and-a-half inches, and Salinas, CA, escaped without too much rain. This was a warm storm so the temps were not that cold; however, a cold storm is developing with a slight chance of rain over the weekend. This storm will bring cold air and minimum temps in Salinas,... Read more
California storm to hamper harvesting veg, berries and avocados
Spring is here, and California is due to get hit with a storm bigger than any that came this winter. Rain will start later today and continue through Thursday in most locations. Expect harvest of strawberries, broccoli, celery, lettuce, other veg, citrus and avocados from these areas to be curtailed or halted altogether for the majority of the week and quality... Read more
Freeze giving Florida the blues, more storms out west
Cold weather continues in Florida. Alachua had a freeze warning issued yesterday morning and today they are waking up to a temperature of 36 degrees. Orlando is 46 this morning and Plant City 40 degrees. Typical minimums for this time of year are 51 for Alachua and 60 for Orlando. These three areas are the main blueberry regions for Florida and this cooler weather... Read more
Fla. peaches, watermelon delayed; more Calif. storms
The start of Florida's peach and watermelon crops, for which harvesting should have started, has been pushed back to around April 1 due to cold weather the last two weeks. Of the peach crop, Sonia Tighe of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and Steven Callaham of Dundee Citrus Growers Association both said the cool weather has not damaged the fruit... Read more
Florida blues chill out, tomatoes tighten and the West stays wet and wild
It's chilly in Florida this morning. Things have changed quickly in last few days as another cold front descends upon Florida. Alachua woke up to a freeze warning, and Orlando and Plant City had morning lows of 42 degrees. These three locations can expect up to 0.25 inches of rain over the weekend with lows in the 40s all next week. This cooler weather will... Read more
Storms lined up to hit California
Three more storms are lined up to hit California in the next 10 days. Expect rain this weekend through Monday, a second storm next Wednesday the 14th and a third storm the weekend of March 17-18. California is getting much-needed snow out of these storms, which should help with irrigation supplies in the summer months. Despite the rain, veg out of Salinas should... Read more

With a name like Rio Queen Citrus it is not hard to figure out that Mike Martin’s Mission, TX-based company offers up the finest in Texas oranges and grapefruit. But many people are unaware that onions are a major — and growing — part of Rio Queen’s program.

TEX-MEX----Rio-Queen-1Ted Brasch, Mike Martin, Dante Galleazzi and Ken Martin of Rio Queen Citrus in Mission, TX. (Photo by Chip Carter) “Onions are a big part of what we are and we’re still growing on the onions side. We’re not trying to take over the world but we’re trying to do a great job at what we do and we feel like if we bring top quality to the market, we’re going to earn respect and we’re going to earn the business of the retail and foodservice crowd that’s looking for that quality,” Mr. Martin said. “So we make an effort to do a great job and service is a big part of it. We have to be here and be willing and able to meet customers’ needs on any given day.”

Since Mr. Martin’s grandfather, Missouri businessman James Ware, bought a 20 acre citrus grove in Mission in 1967, Rio Queen has expanded its operation to management of over 5,000 acres of citrus and 1,150 acres of onions across the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas and ships product throughout the United States and Europe.

Despite the company’s reputation as a one of the state’s largest and best citrus grower-shippers, Mr. Martin said, “Believe it or not, if you look at the whole year we sell more onions than we do citrus and people don’t even realize that. But we’re selling onions year-round, where citrus, even though it’s a long season, it’s still a season. We’re not the largest shipper in Texas for citrus and I don’t necessarily want to be, that’s not my goal — we’re comfortable where we are and happy with what we do and try to do the best job we can and have been for a long, long time. We’re fortunate to have family members who are still very involved in our citrus operation and we take a lot of pride in it.”

The company lays claim to the title of the largest grower and shipper of onions in the Lone Star State and also has deals in grape and cherry tomatoes and honeydew. A recent acquisition includes a mail order division delivering quality gift fruit and other unique food items directly to consumers.

Tomatoes and honeydew are “a smaller part of the deal, but we focus on quality and taste,” Mr. Martin said. “We’re trying to give consumers the best possible taste in every single product every single time. And for our customers who believe in what we’re doing, it’s paying huge dividends and bringing them back to us.”