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MARKETS AND TRENDS

Vegetable supplies in transition with strong markets
As November dawned, there was a significant transition in vegetable production and markets were strong, portending a solid winter vegetable deal from the West. The lettuce market came off its very high mid-October run, which saw prices nearing the $40 mark, but many other commodities remained tight as the Thanksgiving pull sat just off the horizon. Mark McBride,... Read more
Avocado supplies on verge of normalcy
It has been a long time coming but the supplies of avocados in the U.S. market appear to be approaching a more normal situation, which should result in more promotions and a resumption of the decade-long upward trend for the fruit. For the first time in more than a 10 years, consumption in the United States declined in a 12-month period straddling 2016-17 as... Read more
Avocado supplies need to ramp up
If orderly marketing of avocado volume in the United States is the goal for the next year, shipments from Mexico to the United States need to increase significantly — and soon. Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc. in Santa Paula, CA, said a review of the numbers show that the United States consumed about 480 million... Read more
Avocados from Peru shipped a record 145 million pounds of Peruvian avocados to the United States in an extremely condensed window of time during the summer months, helping to meet soaring demand for the fruit in a season when domestic production was down significantly. “The shortage in the U.S. avocado market this past summer provided AFP the opportunity... Read more
In 2016, Peru represented 40 percent of the world’s supply of asparagus and about 43 percent of the total U.S. import dollar value. These numbers have remained fairly consistent over the past five years, though typical market fluctuations have occurred. Peru continues to maintain fairly steady supplies of product into the United States the entire year,... Read more
Though California has been harvesting its new crop of garlic for the past couple of months, there has been no significant downward pressure on price and it doesn’t appear to be in the cards. Bill Christopher, chief executive officer of Christopher Ranch in Gilroy, CA, said garlic has actually been in short supply for most of the time over the last couple... Read more
Michigan apple crop should be strong overall
After a May 8-9 frost damaged apple buds in certain Michigan production areas, opinions are varied on the outlook of the state’s 2017 fresh apple crop. “In my opinion, some areas are quite good. And some areas are not so good. At the end of the day we will have about 75 percent of the volume we had last year. Maybe it will be 80 percent,” Scott... Read more
The Peruvian sweet onion is characterized by a having a very mild flavor and good shelf life, and it comes at the perfect time for most, when the Vidalia program is just winding down. Some U.S. companies have partnered with local growers while others have invested in infrastructure and control their own crop. Miguel Ognio Gomez, chief executive office of KeyPeru,... Read more
Tight avocado supplies to continue through summer
The demand exceeds supply situation that has defined the avocado market continuously since late spring of 2016 is expected to continue through the summer before loosening up this fall. Interviews with several grower-shippers revealed the same facts. Production from California and Peru will be winding down to a trickle by the end of August and Mexico is not expected... Read more
What to expect from California apples
While the California apple deal is just a blip in the industry when you consider that the state of Washington harvests more of the fruit in a week than the Golden State does over the course of a year, Alexander Ott, executive director of the California Apple Commission, noted apples from his state couldn’t be fresher since once they are harvested, the industry... Read more
‘It’s shaping up to be a good year’ for Washington potatoes
Last winter’s heavy snowfall and a wet 2017 spring put Washington potato growers in the fields later than the 2016 season, but reports from the Washington State Potato Commission indicate a good crop is coming in. Chris Voigt, executive director of the Moses Lake, WA-headquartered organization, told The Produce News on July 25 all signs are positive. “We... Read more
Florida orange production is projected to come in at 68.7 million boxes this year, down nearly 30 percent from the 2014-15 crop. The 2015-16 Florida orange crop comprised 81.5 million boxes, a 16 percent decrease from the 2014-15 crop of 96.8 million boxes of oranges. While there has been a sharp decrease in production, the latest forecast increased slightly... Read more
Inferno-type weather hit California in late June with temperatures as high as 122 degrees scorching the Coachella Valley, and temperatures near 110 degrees visiting the San Joaquin Valley. The result was a drop in July grape production from Coachella and a slow start to the San Joaquin Valley deal. “The high temperatures have played havoc with color and... Read more
Big things expected for California pears
At the end of June the California Pear Advisory Board, located in Sacramento, CA, released estimates that this year’s California pear crop will come in at around 3.27 million 36-pound boxes, an increase of 36 percent from last year’s 2.4 million. This impressive increase can be attributed to more favorable weather in just about all the growing districts,... Read more
As the summer solstice hit on June 21, California’s weather heated up with record temperatures noted in many different communities. At the same time, the market for red potatoes also heated up and a strong market is expected throughout July. Gary Askenaizer, who handles bulk potato sales for Progressive Produce Corp. in Los Angeles, told The Produce News... Read more
Garlic producers upbeat about domestic garlic crop
Hopes were high for the 2016 domestic garlic crop as it followed a 2015 crop that saw numerous El Niño-related weather events, from floods to droughts to tornados, which wreaked havoc on many garlic fields. Unfortunately, the 2016 crop was also down by 15-20 percent of normal, also due to inclement weather condition. Domestic garlic producers tend to... Read more
Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Market Specialist, Butch Nottingham, told The Produce News that the Eastern Shore’s potato harvest would be earlier than normal this year. “The Eastern Shore has enjoyed ideal weather, and it’s warmer than it was this time last year,” Nottingham said. “By June 20, all sheds... Read more
Tomato market settles in as supplies start to increase
With the California mature green deal not expected to start until the week of June 19 and rain continuing to pepper the Southeast, in early June the tomato market was fairly strong and it is expected to last at least throughout the month. “We have a very good market right now for everyone involved,” said Joe Bernardi on June 6. “At the current... Read more
For the past couple of weeks, tomato prices have been rising as supplies from Mexico and Florida decline. But as the price hit $20 per carton for some sizes and varieties, demand has waned. "As supplies dwindle, the price goes up and that tends to lessen demand, just as it is supposed to," Joe Bernardi told The Produce News May 26. "I expect it to continue to... Read more
Other than a mild February, which forced apricots and some plum varieties to bloom early, most New Jersey peaches experienced a cool and relatively normal winter, with growers expecting a large crop in 2017. "While our peaches and nectarines bloomed about 10 days early, we have not had sub-freezing temperatures to injure peach flowers and fruit," said Santo... Read more

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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.”

Opinions vary on the size of the Idaho potato crop this year, and certainly yields will vary from one producer to another and one farm to another. But Wilcox Fresh, exclusive marketing company for Floyd Wilcox & Sons Inc., anticipates a “very large” crop of Idaho russet potatoes for the 2012 harvest, according to Jim Richter, executive vice president of sales and marketing.

006-IdPotatoes-WilcoxJim Richter and Lynn Wilcox of Wilcox Fresh.“Russets are the predominant item we do out of Idaho,” Mr. Richter said. “We do offer colored potatoes from other parts of the country, as well as a value-added program.”

Mr. Richter said he expects the size of the Idaho crop, when combined with volume growth in other potato producing areas, will assure that adequate supplies of potatoes will be available to meet market demand.

“While there may be shortages of other commodity items due to the drought we have seen around the country this year, potatoes will be in plentiful supply,” he said.

Quality looks good, and the returns on the early potatoes “look very good,” he said Aug. 24, “but there will be a lot of potatoes on the market this year.”

In the value-added category, Wilcox has been offering a product called “Potato Jazz,” consisting of steam kits of fresh baby potatoes with seasoning packs. “We are going to be re-launching” the “Potato Jazz” line this fall “with new flavor profiles,” he said. “We will have four SKUs in that.”

At Wilcox, “we are always looking for ways to work with our customers to help them improve their results,” Mr. Richter said.

The company was “in the process of upgrading our sales tools and our website, so we will have a new look for those this fall,” he said. Those upgrades will include the company’s large trade show booth for the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit in October as well as “the smaller booth that we use at shows like SEPC, NEPC and Midwest Produce Expo.”