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Crescent hitting on all cylinders as it enters third season

It was quite an undertaking when Crescent Fruit & Vegetable, LLC, opened its doors two years ago in Edinburg, TX, deep in the Rio Grande Valley in the most southern area of the state.

At the time, David DeBerry and his wife, Suzanne, were operating the facility as the onion and watermelon headquarters for the Borders Melon Co. The owners of Frontera Produce bought the facility a year earlier and established Crescent Fruit & Vegetable LLC as a separate entity on Jan. 1, 2012. David DeBerry was hired as general manager and Suzanne DeBerry is the firm’s controller.

“We are doing the same main commodities,” said David DeBerry. “But the most significant change is the volume. We are doing a lot more volume, especially in onions.”

As a case in point, DeBerry told The Produce News on Monday, April 21, that one week earlier the company had shipped 273 loads of onions in one day.

Typically, the company is handling 160-165 loads of onions on a daily basis, but that particular day, it seemed as if each of their growers had their banner day for the year.

Crescent Fruit & Vegetable is currently focusing on three commodities. It has year-round programs for onions and watermelons and five- to six-week deals on honeydew melons in May and June.

DeBerry said the key to all of their programs is to be “grower-driven and retail oriented.”

Though the company is currently happy with its product mix and the building of year-round programs with onions and watermelons, DeBerry said they will always be open to new directions as long as they fit the firm’s credo.

“If our growers wanted to produce kumquats and our customers wanted them, we’d produce kumquats,” he added.

But for the time being, onions and watermelons are taking the majority of the company’s focus. DeBerry has heard unofficially that the Texas onion crop is down a bit but he has no first-hand knowledge of that and it does not mirror the experiences at Crescent.

“Our onion acreage is up,” he said. “The Mexican deal was down a little bit at the front end (from Tampico) but the Western Mexico onion deal may be up a little bit.”

Speaking on April 21, DeBerry said Crescent still has four weeks left of strong onion shipments north of 160 loads on a daily basis. “After that, we will start to wind down but still have onions (from Texas) well into June,” he said.

Though the volume is much greater than he has been responsible for in the past, DeBerry said that the extra volume creates new customers so in some ways it is easier than having less volume. “There are a lot of accounts that prefer to deal with large warehouses that can take care of their daily needs.”

He said from a logistical standpoint, growing, and shipping significantly more volume is a more difficult task. But from a sales point of view, it gives you access to new accounts that take larger orders.

Crescent also has a year-round watermelon deal with Texas providing supplies during May, June and July. DeBerry said the watermelon deal has been varied this year because of erratic spring weather in Mexico, which has been the source for watermelons in late winter and early spring. But he said the Mexican crop is winding down and Texas shippers should be walking into a strong market as they get going in early to mid-May.

DeBerry said the honeydew deal is the company’s smallest as it is regional and lasts only 30-45 days. He did not rule out expansion in honeydews and adding other districts as time goes by, but added that for its first two years of business, it was concentrating on building the watermelon and onion programs and did not pursue expansion in honeydews.

He said honeydews are a unique crop and have their own peculiarities. He said it is not easy to establish a good year program stressing the quality aspect that Crescent pushes.

“We have a vine-ripe program on our honeydews that is difficult to establish. We have a good window in Texas and for the time being we are content with that.”