Southern Specialties shipping Florida blueberries

bluesSouthern Specialties has started shipping Florida-grown blueberries in six-ounce "Southern Selects" clamshells. This year’s blueberry crop will include Farthing, Flicker, Chickadee and Meadowlark varieties. Florida blueberries, Southern Selects blackberries and premium Adelita variety raspberries are distributed from the company’s Pompano Beach, FL, distribution facility.

“This year’s Florida blueberry crop has nice bloom and great flavor,” Alex Henderson, key account manager for the company, said in a press release. “They will ship well and are an excellent product for Florida companies to showcase in their 'Locally Grown' programs.”

Southern Selects Florida blueberries will be available until the end of April, when the company transitions its program to Georgia and the Carolinas. Southern Specialties ships blueberries year-round.

Southern Specialties is a grower, importer, processor and shipper of a variety of specialty products grown in Central America, South America, Mexico, Canada and the United States. In addition to its Pompano Beach headquarters, the company distributes from its facilities in McAllen, TX, and Los Angeles.

Documentary touts honeybee rebound

ORLANDO, FL — “Save the Queen,” a documentary video on the disappearing honeybee and Colony Collapse Disorder, brought the good news about the apparent rebound in bee colonies in recent years as efforts were mounted to stem the losses.

Bee pollination is worth $15 billion to the U.S. farming industry, the documentary by Edwin Stepp revealed in one of its first viewings at the recent Southeast Produce Council Southern Exposure show, here.SEPC3915-QUEEN-EDWIN-STEPPEdwin Stepp

The video excerpts shown featured close-ups of researchers in protective clothing rescuing bee colonies with smudge pots to quiet the honeybees.

“Save the Queen” recounted research findings that if honeybees disappeared, an estimated one-third of the U.S. food supply would disappear also because of the honeybees’ importance as pollinators for so many commercial fruits and vegetables.

Stepp told his audience of about 200 that in making the video he found that CCD, first identified in 2006, was the result of a combination of causes rather than a single factor, such as pesticides. The causes include nutrition, pesticides, stress, diseases and viruses, poor management and genetics, he said.

Stepp noted his roots are in the produce industry, having grown up working in his father’s produce business in western North Carolina.

In a tandem presentation, Jeanette Klopchin, a pollinator protection specialist with the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, described efforts to enlist stakeholder groups, including produce growers and beekeepers, in a statewide effort to stem honeybee losses.

She termed the “Save the Queen” video “the best I’ve seen,” and pointed out that “honeybees are sentinel pollinators. They produce honey to feed themselves, but accidentally they pollinate many of our crops.”

There are more than 20,000 species of bees worldwide, she said, with 4,000 diverse species in the United States and 310 in Florida alone. The Florida bees produce 13 million pounds of honey, which sells for about two dollars a pound.

At its worst, CCD caused honeybee colonies nationwide to drop to 2.5 million from 5.5 million, Klopchin observed. CCD is a worldwide phenomenon, she said, and China has resorted to hand-pollinating some orchards.

Florida efforts are concentrated initially on citrus, blueberry and cucumber crops. And if the present improvement plan stops working, she said, “There’s always Plan Bee.”

Quebec-based Savoura files for bankruptcy

On Thursday, Feb. 5, major creditors of the Savoura trademark, which claims to be the largest greenhouse tomato producer in Quebec, asked the court to appoint a receiver under the Bankruptcy & Insolvency Act.savour

The company, founded under the name Les Serres du St-Laurent Inc., and headquartered in Portneuf, QC, began in business in 1988 headed by the Gosselin and Gauvin families.

Marie Gosselin, president of the company, also served as president of the Quebec Produce Marketing Association in 2014, and is immediate past president.

Raymond Chabot was chosen to initiate an assets sales process to allow the secured creditors, the Banque Nationale and Banque Royale their guarantors.

An unnamed source told The Produce News that the company has been actively seeking buyers, namely other greenhouse companies in Canada.

According to published reports, the company owes a total of $20 million to its creditors, including $10 million to the Banque Nationale and $6 million to the Banque Royale Investissement Quebec.

Stop & Shop exec resigns

Ahold USA announced the departure of Joe Kelley, president of the Stop & Shop New England division, effective March 2. The company said he has resigned from his position to pursue other career opportunities.

Don Sussman, division president of Stop & Stop New York Metro, will also oversee the Stop & Shop New England division on an interim basis. Sussman, who earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Cornell, as well as his MBA from Cornell Business School, has held his current position with Ahold since late in 2011.

The Stop & Shop New England division, headquartered in Quincy, MA, operates approximately 220 stores across Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The division employs approximately 34,000 associates.

PrimusLabs sells auditing division to former employee

Primus Group Inc. announced the sale of its auditing division to Javier Sollozo, the former director of auditing operations at PrimusLabs.

The sale of the auditing division has been in the works for over a year and was prompted by a new requirement of the Global Food Safety Initiative’s Benchmarking Committee in response to Azzule Systems’ request to re-benchmark the PrimusGFS version 2.1.

The deal was reached March 1, and Sollozo’s company, JS Audit Group Inc., will do business as Primus Auditing Operations.

PrimusLabs said in a press release that the sale is a real “land of opportunity” story, the tale of an honest, hard-working immigrant who made good in American business. Sollozo, who was born in Mexico, earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1990 from Metropolitan University of Mexico City. That same year he immigrated to Santa Maria, CA, and he began working for PrimusLabs in 1998 as an auditor and market research analyst.

After 10 years of diligence, initiative and professionalism, Primus Group President Robert Stovicek promoted Sollozo to director of auditing operations. Sollozo successfully managed PrimusLabs’ auditing division for the next seven years, before Stovicek approached him about taking the reins of his own company.

The auditing division’s employees will continue working under Sollozo’s guidance as a part of JS Audit Group Inc.

“When confronted with the need to sell the division, there was really only one logical choice, and that was Javier,” Stovicek said in the press release. “His exceptional skills as a manager, an auditing expert, and an individual dedicated to the fresh produce industry are unparalleled. Besides his incredible work ethic, Javier’s success comes from something innate — the ability to treat everyone, from audit customers to buyers to those with whom he works, with off-the-chart commitment to service, along with respect and professionalism. People connect with him because he has such an exceptional ability to make them feel good about themselves.

“It is paramount to Primus that all of its auditing clients are taken care of and do not have interruptions to their services,” Stovicek added in the press release. “We know our customers are in extremely capable hands. Primus Group takes great satisfaction in the fact that it will be delivering its auditing clients to a skilled, dedicated and proven group of professionals who already serve their needs. PrimusLabs also views this ownership change as an opportunity for Primus Auditing Operations to stake its claim to Primus’ long history of specialization in assessments of fresh produce operations. The company is confident that this will be a smooth transition that will ensure stability and engender confidence in the services that the new group provides.”