Fresh from the Start now shipping Eastern cauliflower

The Eastern cauliflower deal is off to a strong start for Fresh from the Start,  a division of Hapco Farms, based in Riverhead, NY. Based on favorable growing conditions, the firm expects volume and quality to be high for the duration of the shipping season.Cauliflower

Fresh from the Start grows 400 acres of cauliflower in Canada, an increase in acreage over previous seasons due to a spike in demand. Over all, the firm expects to ship 100,000 cases, or 1.2 million heads, during the season, which will run through mid-October.

Cauliflower is pre-cooled and inspected at the field and cooler level. Product is available in nine- and 12-count boxes.

“Like our Maine broccoli program, retailers in the East benefit from our eastern cauliflower because the product can go from the field to the distribution center in 24 hours,” said Eric Scannelli, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

In addition to Maine broccoli and Eastern cauliflower, Fresh from the Start offers a wide variety of fruits and vegetables year-round.

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Impact of Free Trade Agreement a win-win

Peru is an important trade partner with the United States in the area of fresh asparagus, and the relationship has been favorable for both countries. “Year-round availability of fresh asparagus from Peru has allowed U.S. consumers in large geographic portions of the country to gain access to asparagus at times when supply would simply not exist from U.S. growers,” said Priscilla Lleras-Bush, coordinator of the Peruvian Asparagus Importer’s Association. “This is one reason why per capita consumption of asparagus in the United States has increased and remained steadily increasing in the last decade alone.”ExportOV-Priscilla-Lleras-BushPriscilla Lleras-Bush

The United States-Peru Free Trade Agreement was implemented on Feb. 1, 2009, eliminating tariffs and removing barriers to U.S. services; providing a secure, predictable legal framework for investors; and strengthening protection for intellectual property, workers and the environment. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, “The PTPA is the first agreement in force that incorporates groundbreaking provisions concerning the protection of the environment and labor rights that were included as part of the Bipartisan Agreement on Trade Policy developed by Congressional leaders on May 10, 2007. Since 2009, total trade has almost doubled between the United States and Peru, from close to $9 billion more than $16 billion in 2013.”

Lleras-Bush keyed in on the impact the free trade agreement has had for the Peruvian asparagus industry. “The Free Trade Agreement program as a whole has succeeded in spurring economic growth in Peru and has prepared the country to ‘graduate’ into an FTA partner of the U.S,” she told The Produce News. “The US-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement is the bridge to the critical well-being of the Peruvian asparagus industry and to our importer’s association, PAIA. Peru is a principle exporter of asparagus, and that crop stands squarely at the heart of a dynamic agro export sector in Peru.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agriculture Service, the United States imported over 204 million pounds fresh asparagus from Peru for consumption in 2014. “Peruvian asparagus is a perennial crop that requires substantial long-term investment,” Lleras-Bush commented. “Peru’s exceptional climate conditions, its favorable geographic location, and the advances made by Peru in its management of water supply for irrigation have enabled the country to achieve the highest asparagus crop yields. Peru is one of the only few countries whose favorable climate enables it to produce asparagus year-round.”

She said the Peruvian asparagus-growing industry is estimated to employ over 60,000 people and has enabled regions of the country — such as Ica and La Libertad — to become models of economic development and engines of job creation.

“Sure, PAIA estimates that aside from the several hundred persons employed or indirectly involved in the process of importing fresh asparagus imports from Peru, these imports result directly or indirectly in the creation of at least 7,000 in companies in the U.S. throughout the commercial chain,” she commented. “Imports of fresh asparagus from Peru also serve a U.S. market demand that cannot be met by domestic growers alone. The most important factor here is that imports of fresh asparagus from Peru are largely counter-seasonal to the U.S. crop. For instance, the peak production period for U.S.-grown fresh asparagus is February through June. Therefore, all or nearly all U.S. production occurs during a period when the level of imports from Peru is much reduced. However, even during this period as mentioned above, imports from Peru largely complement, rather than supplant, the U.S. crop.”

The vast majority of fresh asparagus imports from Peru enters the United States through South Florida, and is sold and distributed throughout the United States.

PAIA works closely with the United States to collaborate on opportunities to advance trade between Peru and the United States. “It is our opinion that, through the continued collaborated efforts of agency and industry, we will be able to enhance the entire trade process regarding fresh Peruvian asparagus and provide an example of excellence for other commodities and countries to emulate, meanwhile providing a nutritious and delicious vegetable to the U.S. consumer,” Lleras-Bush stated.

The association also works closely with its sister association IPEH [Instituto Peruano del Espárrago y Hortalizas]. PAIA hosts two annual board meetings attended by importers and exporters. Through this collaboration on topics of industry interest, Lleras-Bush said, “We set the goals and provide the next steps to advancing our goals at each meeting.”

Van Solkema set to roll out new Brussels sprouts pouch

BYRON CENTER, MI — Van Solkema Produce Inc., based here, was set to introduce a new Brussels sprouts pouch bag on Aug. 12. Tim Van Solkema, chief operating officer of the firm, said the resealable, clear and high-graphics bags are very popular and will be a large boost to the firm’s Brussels sprouts business.

Tim’s brother, Todd Van Solkema, who is the firm’s chief executive officer, said the firm’s packaging line “has had steady growth.”

Pouch sales “are going real well,” he said. “When you have growth, you have growing pains. But we find a way to work through it.”

Sourcing in Georgia and Nogales, AZ, has made Van Solkema Produce a year-round supplier.

In Nogales, Van Solkema works through a “bird dog” and a consolidation house. The firm has sourced in Nogales for two seasons.

“Our next goal is to add a repack operation in Georgia,” Van Solkema added. For secure management, expansions such as these “have to be controlled” and not done all at once.

In addition to the new Brussels sprouts package offering, other key Michigan items Van Solkema is shipping this summer are sweet corn, hard squash, parsnips, turnips, beets and cabbage. The firm will also ship Peruvian onions and will restart with Georgia squash at the end of August. The Georgia deal “will build from there.”  

This summer, Van Solkema shipped a 12-count Michigan sweet corn four-pack tray. The sweet corn overwrap bears a picture of Tim Van Solkema’s 4-year-old daughter, Kensingtyn.

Stellar Distributing’s biggest fig season to be followed by shipments from Mexico

Stellar Distributing is in its fourth season shipping Tiger figs, and the production and enthusiasm for the striped skin and bright red flesh of this new fig keep growing.

The sweeter, honey-like taste has been a hit with fig fans, but is also attracting consumers who haven’t traditionally purchased figs, according to Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager at the Madera, CA-based company.

“It’s the best season we’ve ever had,” said Cappelluti. “The size is fantastic. I’m packing 25,000 trays a day and I’m still short. We made the transition to Sierra and Tiger figs. The retail side has found those varieties are more than we ever thought they would be. Turkeys and Black Missions are also doing really well. Our Calimyrnas are all gone. Sierras and Tigers will also be available out of Mexico.”

Mexican figs will start shipping in late October, when Stellar will be wrapping up its California fig season, according to Paul Catania Jr., president of Catania Worldwide, based in Mississauga, ON.

Catania Worldwide and Stellar Distributing are the only fully vertically integrated companies to supply fresh figs to U.S. markets year-round. Catania Jr. has been working with Mexican fig growers for four years, but shipped his first Mexican figs into the U.S. from his own 150 acres in the state of Sonora in April.

Celery producer Crispheart Produce celebrates 75th anniversary

HUDSONVILLE, MI — Gene Talsma’s father, William Talsma, launched Crispheart Produce Inc. in 1940, making this the firm’s 75th anniversary.  

“I bought the company from him,” Talsma said, adding that his sons Randy and Derick are in line to eventually own the firm. Talsma has worked full time for the company since he graduated from high school in 1960.

He notes that his “Crispheart” celery and celery heart brand is one of the commodity’s most recognized brands nationally.  

The firm owns an efficient packing operation that is located in an industrial park in Hudsonville. This area is surrounded by the black muck soil yielding optimum celery production. The flat, rich land resembles Holland, which is the native land to so many who live in this area.  

Although the immediate vicinity is known for celery production, Talsma said Crispheart packs and distributes for Michigan celery growers that are located in a 50-mile range to the south, north and west of Hudsonville.

Most of the firm’s customers take advantage of the local aspect of Crispheart and thus are located in the Midwest. Kansas City is the freight-cost balance point between Michigan and California celery shippers, so that is the western edge of Talsma’s usual shipping bounds.  The company also has customers in the South and East.

Crispheart normally ships celery until late October. The Michigan celery deal traditionally begins in late June.