Imports keep domestic shelves stocked

The Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides a snapshot of imported berry movement its its publication, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable National Shipping Point Trends.

According to the Sept. 9 report, movement of blueberries from British Columbia crossing into the state of Washington were expected to decrease. “Most sheds are finished for the season. Supplies insufficient to establish a market,” the report stated.BerryMovementOV

Looking at the category of Miscellaneous Berries, AMS reported the following of Mexico crossings through Arizona, California and Texas: “Light crossings of blackberries are being reported. However, supplies remain in too few hands to establish market. Additional shippers should begin to cross by Sept. 15. Estimate f.o.b to begin on or around Sept. 21.”

According to AMS, air shipments of miscellaneous berries from Guatemala was expected to remain “about the same.” Noting ports of entry in south Florida, AMS said, “ Supplies light. Trading fairly active. Prices higher. Cartons 12 6-ounce cups with lids, Blackberries mostly $14-$15. Quality variable.”

A first report for raspberries crossing into the Arizona, California and Texas from Mexico was provided. “Movement expected to increase seasonally. Light crossings are being reported. However, supplies remain in too few hands to establish market. Additional shippers should begin to cross by Sept. 22. Estimate f.o.b. to begin on or around Sept. 23.”

American consumers continue to seek out berries as part of a healthful diet. In an article published in The Upshot, Josh Barro noted, “According to statistics published by the United States Department of Agriculture, per capita consumption of fresh raspberries grew 475 percent from 2000 to 2012, the most recent year for which data are available. Blueberry consumption is up 411 percent, and strawberries are up 60 percent.”

Increased berry consumption has balanced out declines in the volume of apples, oranges and bananas eaten by American consumers, he added.

Although the United States is a major producer and exporter of berries, the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center provided some historic insights about berry importation to the U.S.

Blueberries: “The United States is a net importer of fresh blueberries. In 2012, the nation imported fresh blueberries valued at nearly $419.8 million, a 12-percent increase from the previous year. Just over 50 percent of the fresh blueberries originated from Chile, which provides fresh blueberries to U.S. markets during the winter months of mid-November through January. Canada provided more than 25 percent of the fresh blueberries coming into the country. Canada also provided over half of the frozen blueberries imported into the United States in 2012.”

Strawberries: “The U.S. is not only the leading strawberry producing country, but also the fourth largest importer of fresh strawberries. Fresh imports increased more than three fold during the past 12 years, reaching a record 351.27 million pounds in 2012, up 31 percent from 2011. Frozen imports reached 215 million pounds in 2012, up 10 percent from 2011. Mexico is by far the largest supplier, providing the majority of total imports. Mexican strawberries have overlapping production seasons with Florida, with most of Mexican strawberries produced and imported in winter.”

Blackberries: “In 2010, the U.S. imported 95.7 million pounds of fresh blackberries and 21.1 million pounds of frozen product. It is clear that U.S. consumption levels of blackberries, especially fresh, are trending upwards. The 2010 U.S. imported fresh blackberries were valued at $147.3 million, almost three times the 2006 fresh imported value at just $58.8 million. In contrast, 2006 and 2010 imported frozen blackberry values were very similar, totaling $10.2 million and $10.8 million, respectively, which is most likely due to high percentage of U.S. production that is frozen and stored. Mexico provided nearly all U.S. imported fresh blackberry volumes, representing a four-year annual average 95.5 percent share from 2008 to 2011. Chile dominated U.S. imports of frozen blackberries, accounting for a four-year annual average market share of 77.9 percent from 2008-2011.”

Raspberries: “To meet consumer demand, the United States imports fresh raspberries. From November through May, most imports originate from Mexico. In 2010, the United States imported 13,927 metric tons of fresh Mexican raspberries valued at $118 million. During July and August, most fresh raspberries come from Canada. In 2010, the United States imported a total of 442 metric tons of Canadian raspberries valued at $658,000.”

Alfred Imbimbo Jr., former sales and marketing executive at Suntreat, dies at 55

Alfred Constance Imbimbo Jr., a fixture in California’s Central Valley who worked for a number of citrus marketers during his career, died Sept. 7 following a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 55.

Described as a stylish dresser, accomplished traveler, foodie, aficionado of produce and lover of all four-footed creatures, Mr. Imbimbo carved our a respected career in the produce industry. From working the docks at LoBue Citrus, the phones and major customers at Riverbend, Paramount and Sunkist, and ultimately serving as vice president of sales and marketing at Suntreat Packing & Shipping Co. in Lindsay, CA, he exhibited a passion for the citrus industry that was known throughout the valley. One of the highlights of his time at Suntreat was shepherding the company’s Sumo Citrus program.Al-ImbimboAlfred Constance Imbimbo Jr.

Born in Orange, NJ, on March 1, 1960, Mr. Imbimbo attended Lindsay High School and San Diego State University before graduating from Fresno State in 1990 with a degree in business marketing. It was at Fresno State that he met his wife of 21 years, Julie, about whom he once said, "I just met a girl who is soap and water beautiful!," and, “I wish I could have married her the day I met her.”

Friends have said his relationships were abiding, loyal, deep and passionate, and that he never met a party he didn't want to go to, a car he didn't want to buy, a marlin he didn't want to catch or a friend he didn't want to make.

Mr. Imbimbo is survived by his wife, Julie, and his beloved pups, Gia and Enzo. He was preceded in death by his father, Alfred Sr., his mother, Margaret, and his younger brother, Anthony.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Al's favorite charity, a no kill shelter in Paradise: Animal Care Center of St. John, In Memory of Al Imbimbo, P.O. Box 429 St. John, Virgin Islands 00831-0429. A funeral Mass of Christian burial was held Monday September 14, 2015.

Chilean fresh fruit industry assessing damage from earthquake

The Chilean fresh fruit industry is assessing the impact of the Sept. 16 earthquake on production areas in northern and central regions of the country.

According to a statement released by the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, it remains too early to deliver a full long-term analysis, but indications are that the industry has emerged with almost no damage.

An 8.4 magnitude earthquake struck the northern city of IL lapel around 282 kilometers from the capital city of Santiago the evening of Sept. 16.

The Chilean Fruit Exporters Association, known as ASOEX, has reported that to date there have not been any reports of damage to either packingsheds, cold-storage facilities or transportation links. Still to be confirmed is the state of infrastructure of the northern port of Coquimbo. 

“There does not seem to be any impact on the fruit industry and the coming cherry and blueberry seasons should begin without any major interruption,” ASOEX Chairman Ron Bown said in a Sept. 17 press release. “Chile is well prepared for these types of seismic events, and growers and exporters will continue to make every effort to meet previously established shipping goals. At the same time, as an industry, we would like to send our deepest condolences to the families of those compatriots who have lost their lives in this earthquake." 

Albertsons moving forward with IPO plans

Albertsons is moving forward with its plans for an initial public offering of shares of its common stock in late September or early October, according to a Reuters report, which said people familiar with the matter suggested the value could be as high as $24 billion, including debt.

The company initially filed a registration statement with the Securities & Exchange Commission for the IPO on July 8, and at the time Albertsons said it planned to raise $100 million in the offering. The Reuters report said market conditions could affect the listing date.

Earlier this year Albertsons completed its merger with Safeway, creating a diversified network that includes 2,230 stores, 27 distribution facilities and 19 manufacturing plants with over 250,000 employees across 34 states and the District of Columbia. As a condition of that merger, the Federal Trade Commission ordered Albertsons and Safeway to sell off some of their stores. Haggen, a West Coast regional grocer that purchased 146 of the Albertsons and Safeway stores, is now suing Albertsons for $1 billion in damages.

On Sept. 1 Haggen filed its lawsuit against Albertsons, saying the company engaged in “coordinated and systematic efforts to eliminate competition and Haggen as a viable competitor in over 130 local grocery markets in five states,” and “made false representations to both Haggen and the FTC about Albertsons’ commitment to a seamless transformation of the stores into viable competitors under the Haggen banner.” Albertsons has denied the alegation.

STEP-UPP class reunion held at Southern Innovations Symposium

Charleston, SC — The Southeast Produce Council has many worthwhile and successful programs, one of which is the Southeast Training Education Program for Upcoming Produce Professionals.

Now five years old, the STEP-UPP program held its first reunion Wednesday evening, Sept. 16, on Goat Island, one day prior to the council's Southern Innovations Symposium. Participants of all five classes returned for the event.StepUpp2693Tom Page, a former president of the Southeast Produce Council, and Faye Westfall, secretary of the council's board of directors, co-chair the council's STEP-UPP program. (Photo by Gordon M. Hochberg)

There were 10 participants in each class, and more than 30 came back for the celebration, according to the co-chairs of the STEP-UPP program: Tom Page, who is retired from Supervalu and is a former president of the council, and Faye Westfall of DiMare Fresh Tampa and current secretary of the council's board of directors. "That's a great number," they said.

About 85 people in total, including most of those on the board of directors, attended the event on Goat Island, which featured traditional Southern fare and live music.

The current class participants will finish their year of training at this symposium — formerly called the fall conference — and they will receive their certificates at the President's Dinner Dance Friday evening, Sept. 18. Also that evening, the names of the next class will be announced. There will be 12 participants in this sixth class, the largest class ever, noted Westfall and Page.

"People are realizing what a great program this is," they said.