view current print edition




Freska sourcing mangos from Ecuador and Peru

Both Ecuadorian and Peruvian mango production is a bit light this year. But by sourcing from both countries, Freska Produce International LLC in Oxnard, CA, is able to fill its customers’ needs.

“The Ataulfos from Ecuador are winding down,” said Gary Clevenger, co-owner of the company. “Volume will be spotty until they are finished near the end of December. But we are bringing in a lot of Tommy Atkins from Ecuador, and we are starting up in Peru [the week of Dec. 5]. That first load from Peru should arrive by December 19.”

Mr. Clevenger said that with the lighter-than-usual volume from both countries, the market has remained fairly strong in the $5 to $7 range, with the larger fruit commanding the higher market. He said that cool weather is the cause of the lighter supplies, but it has created good growing conditions for good-quality fruit. “The fruit from Ecuador has been coming in very clean.”

He said that the Ataulfos were sizing in the 18-22-count range per 10-pound carton, while the Tommy Atkins mangos are mostly sizing at 12-14 count. “There isn’t a lot of large fruit out there, so it is getting a premium,” he said.

Mangos are not a typical holiday promotion item, but nonetheless, Mr. Clevenger said that retailers have given some ad support to the item this fall. After the first of the year, he expects promotion programs to increase along with the volume of fruit. Both Peru and Ecuador will have fruit in January with Peru lasting longer — into February and March. At that point, Mexico should get started with its earliest fruit, typically Ataulfos, from its more southern states including Oaxaca and Chiapas.

At this time of the year, Freska is also keeping busy with its Mexican pepper deal. For the past four years, the company has imported Bell peppers into the United States from Mexico during this time of the year. “We bring them up through Nogales [AZ] beginning in November and go all the way into April,” said Mr. Clevenger. “Mostly green and red Bell peppers, but this year we also have some Jalapeños, Poblanos, Serranos and some other chili varieties.”

He said that it has been an excellent deal for the firm, though the company is hoping to expand its sourcing opportunities so that the pepper sales can become a year-round program, just as the firm’s mango deal is. It is more difficult when it is not, noted Mr. Clevenger. “When you are seasonal, each year, you have to fight your way back into the mix,” he said. “We want to source year round, and we are moving slowly in that direction.”

Speaking in early December, Mr. Clevenger said that it has been a pretty good deal for the green Bell peppers and chili peppers, noting that red peppers have been in short supply. “Our red pepper deal doesn’t get started until mid-December, which is when everyone is going to get going. So we’ll see then what the market is like.”

The firm’s peppers are brought from Mexico into Nogales and are loaded from there to points across the United States.

Mr. Clevenger said that many of the same customers buy both mangos and peppers from the firm. “We deal with a lot of smaller retailers and some of the ethnic markets. Peppers and mangos are big sellers for them, so they are complementary products.”