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OHL’s Fitzgerald outlines Northeast sea arrivals

ANAHEIM, CA — The reach of customs house broker OHL International spans a wide representation of global trade. Similarly, in OHL’s Philadelphia office, Ed Fitzgerald, assistant vice president, has a broad feel for the outlook for fruit imports for the Northeastern United States.

Meeting Oct. 18 with The Produce News at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit to share his view of the region’s coming late fall and winter fruit trade, Fitzgerald said late-harvest California grape varieties combined with an early Peruvian grape season have mostly squeezed Brazilian grapes out of exports to the Northeastern United States. Containerized Peruvian grapes have already loaded and disembarked for arrival before the end of the month. Fitzgerald noted that the Peruvian onion imports are also having a strong season, which started in early August due the warm winter in Peru.

New for this coming season, Fitzgerald stated that MOL (America) Inc. has added Philadelphia to its port rotation from Valparaiso, Chile, commencing Nov. 12.  The containerized service will be weekly, calling on Packer Avenue Marine Terminal.

MOL’s ACW northbound service also calls on Callao, Peru, and Buenaventura, Colombia. The planned transit from Chile to Philadelphia will be a 20-day voyage. Reefer containers of blueberries, grapes and onions are expected to be on the first ships’ manifests.

Fitzgerald indicated that last week’s frost reports from Chile were initially a big concern due to last year’s losses on blueberries, kiwis and stone fruit, but he added that the recent frost damage was limited. Argentinean and Peruvian blueberries have already started to arrive by air freight to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Chilean cherries and blueberries will quickly be following.   

In the clementine business, the first-of-the-season containers are expected to start arriving in Philadelphia and Port Newark, NJ, beginning in the second and third weeks of November. At around the same time, break bulk conventional reefer ships are on schedule to arrive on the Delaware River.

Throughout the season, break bulk conventional reefer ships will be calling on Holt’s Gloucester, NJ, terminal with Spanish clementines and the port of Wilmington, DE, will be receiving Moroccan clementines.   

The Italian season for containerized grapes, pears and kiwi has already started with imports into the Northeast.

“We will also be handling the customs clearances of the traditional holiday favorite, Italian chestnuts,” Fitzgerald said. “Due to the Russian embargo in place, we expect Italian volumes to be higher this season. In addition, European growers and shippers may look to the U.S. as a possible new market for their fruits and vegetables that have already approved protocol for importation by the USDA.”     

Overall, the growers, shippers and U.S. importers anticipate “a very good season” from South America and the Mediterranean, according to Fitzgerald.

Fresh Farms seeing strong Mexican watermelon market due to limited volume

RIO RICO, AZ — Mexican watermelon prices are approaching record highs for this time of year, according to Jerry Havel, director of sales and marketing for produce distributor Fresh Farms.

In an Oct. 28 interview at his office, here, Havel said the prices in the range of 28 cents to 30 cents a pound for seedless watermelons were almost unheard-of. He wasn’t sure of the all-time high price for late October, but said this range was sure to match, if not exceed, the historical high.  

“It’s 35 degrees in the Midwest,” which isn’t the kind of weather that creates watermelon demand, he said.

It is the supply side that is affecting prices, he said. Two consecutive hurricanes hit Sonora in August. The subsequent rain “grew big watermelon plants” but there was very low crop set. As a result, the volume is 30-50 percent of normal.

“I am not sure we will recover between now and December” in watermelon volume, he said. “So, we expect a pretty good market for watermelons from now to December.”

Westmoreland’s new pint-size ‘TopLine Creations’ gets strong reception

“Our entire sales staff was on hand to represent Westmoreland Sales/TopLine Farms at the PMA Fresh Summit,” said Jimmy Coppola, account and marketing manager for the Leamington, ON-based company. “Besides myself, on hand at the Summit was Max Mastronardi, Tony Cappelli and Lisa Sirizzotti, all account managers. Also in attendance to greet and meet with visitors was Dino DiLaudo, account and sales manager; Matt Wright, procurement and grower liaison; Ken Green, president; Ruben Aboytes, grower liaison; and Andre Escobar, general manager of the Texas division.”

Westmoreland was founded in 1999 by five families in the Leamington area, all Mastronardis who saw a need to differentiate themselves through innovative growing methods, food-safety initiatives, and a passion and drive to see their hard work being enjoyed by all.

The company produces greenhouse produce in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central America and Europe, further ensuring customers experience no supply gaps throughout the year. Its products are distributed to a strong mix of customers that include retail stores, wholesalers and foodservice operators across North America, and the company is always exploring new areas for potential opportunities.

Coppola said that the company launched a new pint size version of its award-winning “TopLine Creations” at the Fresh Summit.

“This line of packaged greenhouse produce offers the inclusion of olive oil packets,” he said. “Our first rollout of the pack earlier this year has been very well received, and that called for an expansion of the product line.”

He explained that “TopLine Creations” is a perfect item for salad lovers on-the-go, or for those who just to add that little extra touch to make an unforgettable snack. The product won an award in the Best New Produce category at the 2014 Canadian Produce Marketing Association this year.

“We also featured all of the greenhouse products that we grow, pack and distribute at the Summit,” said Coppola. “Our line includes Bell peppers, beefsteak tomatoes, cluster tomatoes, seedless cucumbers, seedless mini cucumbers and our long line of specialty tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.”

In addition, the company continued its Partner Appreciation Lounge at the Summit, where its valued partners could rest their feet while enjoying cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

Although it produces a wide variety of greenhouse produce, Coppola said the company’s strongest item by far are its seedless mini cucumbers, followed by long seedless cucumbers.

“We have plenty available in the tomato, pepper and specialty categories as well, which represent important parts of our line,” he added.

Coppola stressed that Westmoreland has a great mix of partners “out there” that fall into one category or another.

“And we are interested in developing more into foodservice, processing and industrial sectors as we see great value in those categories in addition to retailers and wholesalers,” he said.

Phase two of Red Sun Farms’ Virginia greenhouse to be under way soon

The excitement has been escalating for some time at Red Sun Farms, a Kingsville, ON-based distributor of a full line of greenhouse-grown vegetables, over its new Dublin, VA, greenhouse, where production includes both conventional and organic produce.

“The phase two expansion of a 12 additional acres to the operation will be under way soon, followed by phase three with an additional 18 acres,” said Jim DiMenna, company president. “That will bring Virginia’s Red Sun footprint to 48 acres in 2017. The first phase of the project will create 95 jobs. Once complete, the three-year project will create jobs for 205 for people and boast 48 acres of conventional locally grown greenhouse-grown tomatoes, organic tomatoes and our specialty line of produce.”

DiMenna added that the company has also recently opened a distributing center in Nogales, TX.

Red Sun Farms saw a great turnout at is booth at the PMA Fresh Summit. In addition to DiMenna, company officials on hand to greet visitors at its exhibition booth included Carlos Visconti, chief operating officer; Adrian Abbott, director of Canadian operations; Ernesto Sanabria, director of U.S. operations; Harold Paivarinta, director of sales and business development; Sabrina Pokomandy, marketing and public relations manager; Kyle Moynahan, sales manager; and Jim Cathey, sales and procurement manager.

In addition to talking up the new Virginia greenhouse project, Red Sun Farms featured its Virginia-grown, organic tomatoes on the vine, Virginia-grown organic grape tomatoes and organic Mexican grape tomatoes at the Fresh Summit.

“Our organic line of tomatoes-on-the-vine and grape tomatoes are now available,” DiMenna noted. “We have organic grape tomatoes being grown in the U.S. and in Mexico.”

Red Sun Farms has partnered with CKF, a Canadian family-owned company that offers a wide range of molded pulp and foam products to meet the specific demands of retail consumers, foodservice operators and the packaging industry.

“This partnership enables Red Sun to offer earth-friendly pack styles for our grape tomatoes and our four-pack tomatoes-on-the-vine,” said DiMenna. “CKF pulp plates, bowls and buffet platters are all recyclable products. By reusing, reducing and recycling waste, CKF strives to do its part for a cleaner future.”

The base of the packaging is earth-cycle fibre board made of fibres from North America.

Red Sun Farms is the first 100 percent high-tech greenhouse organization to own farms in all three NAFTA countries. DiMenna explained that the company’s vertical integration spanning all three countries is one-of-a-kind in North America today.

At the Fresh Summit, Red Sun Farms once again featured its “Hacienda Special Reserve” heirloom tomatoes in a retail-ready display case, which DiMenna said quickly became very popular when the items was launched at the 2013 PMA Fresh Summit.

Red Sun Farms boasts a wide range of customers, including retailers, wholesalers and foodservice operators. Besides its headquarters, the company distributes its greenhouse product from its distribution centers in Montreal, Taylor, MI, Dublin, VA, Pharr, TX, Nogales, AZ, and at its Mexico farm.

Red Sun Farms is PTI-compliant at all of its distribution centers and farm locations. And it actively participates in the Produce Traceability Initiative.

“I hold a seat on the PTI Leadership Committee, and Sabrina is co-chair of the PTI Communications Working Group,” added DiMenna.

Kerian Machines creates a gentler ride for soft products

With almost 50 years in building packing equipment, Kerian Machines Inc. — at least for this year —- is focused on a subtle design change to improve its business offering.

Company owner James Kerian indicated that this year the firm’s packingline frames have been modified to reduce the distance between the roller and the conveyor belt. This allows ever-gentler handling, which is especially beneficial to soft products like vine-ripe tomatoes, peaches and soft apples.

Kerian is very soft-spoken about the firm, which is located in Grafton, ND. But when prompted, he said that Kerian Machines is not only a success with North American (including Mexican) packers, it has customers in every country in South America and Europe. He also sells packing equipment into South Africa, South Korea, India, China and Tanzania.