FOREST PARK, GA — President David Rose of produce broker Merrin-Cravens Co., which has been supplying the Atlanta wholesale and foodservice industries with top-quality produce from around the world from its spot on the Atlanta State Farmers Market since 1923, said that he has not seen much change in demand or buying habits in the past 12 months.
“From last year to this, there hasn’t been much change,” Mr. Rose said. “Just a few more gray hairs.”
Clients are continuing to stay away from speculative buying and focusing on just-in-time delivery. Mr. Rose believes that what was once seemingly a trend is now just the way people do business.
Mr. Rose has noticed one very positive improvement in the produce trade: “People are buying closer to the vest, but there is some indication they are paying better. People have cut back on speculating. Rather than ordering one load here or one load there, they’re ordering half a load. Volume has been cut back, but people are paying better it seems like.”
The two likely go hand in glove, Mr. Rose said. As businesses pay closer attention to the bottom line, profitability improves. As profitability improves, economic crunches lessen and bills get paid on time.
Despite labor shortages that put severe crimps in the spring crops in both Florida and Georgia, Merrin-Cravens never felt the pinch.
“We kept hearing about that, but once it was all said and done, deliveries were made,” Mr. Rose said. “It may have been more of a struggle; they may have had to pay more for the labor to get it done, but it didn’t affect the f.o.b. or the availability. Luckily, it’s not seemed to affect us, but it might be a challenge as we go along as laws change. All that’s up in the air. Do you really change or do you just keep going the way you have been?”
A solid labor supply has been a “luxury since the 1940s or ‘50s, and it was never political until now,” Mr. Rose said.
More than labor, trucking and weather patterns impact Merrin-Cravens’ trade.
Fortunately, the nationwide trucking shortage projected this spring never materialized. “The rates were a little higher this year. But once they got up, they didn’t really fluctuate too much. They spiked, then they came back down and settled there. Transportation can become a problem, but if you can’t do it today, tomorrow you can. It just depends on how you plan things out.”
And weather, of course, is always unpredictable.
“We’ve got imports from all over the world,” Mr. Rose said. “In the big picture, weather patterns from one part of the world affect those in others; patterns from one hemisphere affect others. And we take the good with the bad. We don’t want to see overlaps — or shortages.”