Veneman named to lead UNICEF
January 24, 2005
by Joan Murphy
WASHINGTON " U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has been named to take over as head of the United Nations Children?s Fund, starting May 1.
?Her qualifications are outstanding," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said of Secretary Veneman, who has headed USDA since 2001.
The outgoing secretary will be in charge of more than 7,000 people spanning 157 countries who respond to the needs of children, ranging from running massive child immunization campaigns to mobilizing aid in disasters such as last month?s devastating Indian Ocean tsunami.
Ms. Veneman, who grew up on a family farm in the San Joaquin Valley and headed the California Department of Food & Agriculture, decided not to stay on for President Bush?s second term.
On Jan. 6, a Senate panel confirmed Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns to succeed Sec. Veneman as secretary of agriculture. Raised on a dairy farm, Gov. Johanns also comes from a strong agriculture background, and as head of USDA will have to navigate through fierce political battles, such as looming budget cuts, Mad Cow disease concerns and the upcoming farm bill.
Broccoli plantings reflect consumer demand
January 24, 2005
by Brian Gaylord
A steady consumer demand for broccoli has led growers to offer the commodity in a number of forms and packages.
Maggie Bezart, vice president of marketing for Castroville, CA-based Ocean Mist Farms, said that the company has a "conservative increase? in broccoli acreage in Coachella, CA, this winter.
?There?s a higher demand on crowns," Ms. Bezart said. As a result, Ocean Mist is striving to increase its yields. More of Ocean Mist?s size 18 packs are going to shrink wrap to meet consumer demand, she said.
?We see more crowns going to foodservice," Ms. Bezart added. "There?s an increased demand in Canada in bunches and foodservice."
Broccoli consumption continues to grow on a per-capita basis, Ms. Bezart said.
Broccoli increasingly has found its way into value-added products through Salinas, CA-based Mann Packing Co. and other companies. Broccoli salad blends find broccoli florets being paired with cauliflower florets. Carrots and cabbage also are used with broccoli blends.
California and Yuma, AZ, grow the vast majority of broccoli in the United States. In California, the Salinas, Santa Maria and San Joaquin valleys lead the way.
Tom Russell, president of Salinas, CA-based Pacific International Marketing Inc., said that his company has experienced strong, steady growth in broccoli sales. "Every year we sell more broccoli," Mr. Russell said. "Five years ago, our desert broccoli deal was at 500 acres. Now it's at 2,600 acres."
Between various labels and packs, PIM has 49 broccoli items; five years ago, the company only carried 14s, 18s and crowns, Mr. Russell said.
PIM has experienced strong growth selling party trays to processors, Mr. Russell said. There?s a strong demand from processors during the holidays and occasions such as the Super Bowl, Mr. Russell said.
PIM also has five lines of iceless broccoli cuts. "We?re doing iceless in all varieties " regular iceless for the domestic market," said Mr. Russell.
PIM grows broccoli at six locations in the desert, including Yuma, AZ. A typical yield per acre in the desert is 600-700 cartons. With rents for Yuma farmland hovering around $600 per acre, PIM has spread its harvest around, Mr. Russell said.
High yields are hard to come by in the desert in December, Mr. Russell said, but they pick up in January and February when the market drops.
The company hasn?t grown its organic broccoli category as fast. Two years ago, PIM grew more organic broccoli than today. Still, the category is up 50 percent from three years ago, Mr. Russell said.
Tim Tomasello, broccoli commodity manager for Mann Packing Co., said that the winter desert deal has gone well for broccoli despite heavier-than-normal rainfall. As of Jan. 17, the U.S. market f.o.b. price was $6 on bunch and $7-7.50 on crowns.
Broccoli withstands rainfall pretty well, Mr. Tomasello said, adding that warm rains speed up the harvest, while cool rains slow it down a little.
Mann?s desert broccoli plantings are up at least 5 percent, Mr. Tomasello said. "We continue to see a trend between value-added retail and foodservice."
Both broccoli and Mann Packing " one of the larger broccoli shippers in the world " have gotten a boost from the book Superfoods RX: Fourteen Foods that Will Change Your Life. The book?s co-author, Dr. Steven Pratt, appeared in Mann Packing Co."s booth at the Produce Marketing Association?s Fresh Summit in October in Anaheim. Dr. Pratt signed complimentary copies of his national bestseller and answered questions from attendees.
Dr. Pratt?s appearance confirmed the positive effects of healthy eating, Mr. Tomasello said. Mann Packing is the most recommended vegetable brand in Dr. Pratt?s book, appearing numerous times in the book?s recommended shopping list. Dr. Pratt has been quoted as complimenting Mann for its fresh-cut and ready-to-eat broccoli.
Crowns, florets, spears and value-added products have gained in popularity at Mann.
Throughout 2004, Mann launched national in-store recipe distribution programs, on-line promotions via the company?s web site (www.broccoli.com) and the SuperFoods Rx web site (www.superfoodsrx.com), and a direct mail campaign to Mann?s consumer database and in select markets.