For the first time, DNE World Fruit Sales, based in Ft. Pierce, FL, this summer is receiving some shipments of Chilean fruit into Florida and repacking in its Florida packinghouses. The endeavor supplements similar, pre-existing work in DNE facilities close to New Jersey and California seaports.
DNE was a major Florida citrus shipper-exporter long before also becoming a summertime citrus importer. The firm owns many Florida packinghouses, making it “very competitive” in repacking summer citrus, according to Mark Hanks, DNE’s vice president of sales and marketing. For customers in the Southeast, this creates savings on high fuel costs compared to the alternative of trucking repacked citrus from New Jersey. DNE’s Florida packing crews have been retained for this summer. “We have coolers and all there, so it makes it easy for all these chains to do pick-ups. It’s something we have never done before.”
There are a limited number of steamship routes between Chile and Pt. Everglades, FL, but “We try to take advantage of that service and bring clementines here. It’s more convenient for the southeastern retailers.”
Australian, Chilean and “a little bit” of Peruvian citrus comprise the 2011 summer citrus program for DNE.
On June 10, Mr. Hanks said that his firm this summer will be receiving 1 million boxes of Australian citrus on the West Coast. DNE’s Australian deal will consist of Navels, Minneolas and Daisy Mandarins. DNE will receive all varieties of Chilean citrus at California, New Jersey and Florida seaports, and all the citrus received on the West Coast this summer will be repacked at Del Norte cold storage in Oxnard, CA. “We do all the bagging and distribution from there. It’s one-stop shopping” for DNE customers. “Oxnard is off [highway] 101 and is very convenient for all transportation all over the country. It’s a little easier than the [Los Angeles] operation we had in the past. We were with Del Norte a couple years ago. Then we went to L.A. Now we’re back to distributing from Del Norte.”
In Gloucester City, NJ, DNE is receiving South African, Chilean and the Peruvian citrus. DNE’s World Pack warehouse and packing facility is a few blocks from the Gloucester Marine Fruit Terminal. This will be the fourth year of operation for World Pack, which provides the same customer services as Del Norte, “so we have one-stop shopping on both coasts.”
With transit times as long as 17 days in the summer citrus deals, “you will have some issues in the fruit.” But the repack facilities grade out problems and provide retailers with fruit that is 100 percent saleable, Mr. Hanks noted.
The national demand for “clementines is very strong. We see it remaining strong this year.”
Mr. Hanks expects South African clementine import volume to be down a little bit this year due to the exchange rate. He added that the Southern Hemisphere citrus-shipping countries have currencies that are 25 percent stronger than last year in comparison to the U.S. dollar. “That is a major jump. Last year at this time, Australia received 1.20 [Australian] dollars for each U.S. dollar. Now it’s 95 cents, so that is a 25 decrease. It’s the same for Chile and South Africa. The weak dollar is good for [U.S.] exports. It’s not great for importers. With imports and high fuel costs, it’s challenging.”
Mr. Hanks described Peruvian citrus as an “up and coming” player in the summer citrus deal. “They grow some nice products.” Peru’s major summer citrus item for the United States market “now is the Minneola. I don’t consider it a feature item, but it is a very nice product that they produce. They are coming on with clementines, and some of the Mandarin varieties are doing well for them. What they lack in color they make up in quality. The taste is very good.”
DNE will receive its first containers of citrus from both South Africa and Chile in the week of June 12. The season’s first vessel of South African fruit was slated to discharge at Gloucester Marine Fruit Terminal about June 20.