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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.”

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