NOGALES, AZ — going into the 2010-11 season, Ciruli Bros. LLC, here, was expecting increases in volume across the board, with particularly significant increases in a couple of commodities. Due to the February 2011 freeze, the anticipated volume increases were not realized, particularly out of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico.
For 2011-12, the company planted the same acreage in various commodities as it had done the prior year. “With good weather this year, we should see the volume increase out of that deal” that did not materialize last year, said Chris Ciruli, chief operating officer.
The company does have some new offerings this year, he said. “In going forward, a couple of the growers wanted to diversify what they were doing because of some of the issues last year.”
With regard to the Culiacan deal, “the main items for us coming out of there will be Romas, round tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplant,” he said. “Those come up under the ‘Azteca’ label.”
Ciruli Bros. also will have gray, yellow and Zucchini squash in the “Vuco” label and specialty eggplant — Hindu and Italian — under the “Compano” label. “Everything else that we bring up comes under ‘Ciruli Bros.,’“ he said.
“In the northern deal where we were just doing green beans out of Los Mochis [Sinaloa, Mexico], we have added to that deal some hot peppers as well as some tomatillos,” Mr. Ciruli said. “That will be new this year.”
Also new will be hard-shell squashes out of Hermosillo, Sonora. “We have always had a mix [of soft squash] out of the North — green, yellow and Mexican grey — and we have had Kabocha, but we have never had the other hard shells to go along with that. So this year, we have planted butternut, we have planted Spaghetti and Acorn, so we will have a full line of hard-shell squash,” he said. Those will start in December and hopefully go through April.
Ciruli Bros. was receiving cucumbers and squash out of Caborca, Sinaloa, when The Produce News talked to Mr. Ciruli Nov. 7. “They just did the first picks out of Culiacan today,” he said, “so we should see that Culiacan product up here” by Nov. 9.
Some of the early products in Culiacan were coming in later than anticipated because rain necessitated some replanting, Mr. Ciruli explained. Green peppers, for example, would probably not be starting until around mid-December, about two weeks behind normal.
“Other than that, we are optimistic and looking forward to a good season,” hoping to “get back to a normal year” after last year’s weather disruptions, he said.
With the anticipated volume increases, combined with a desire to “focus on better communication with the customers,” Ciruli Bros. has “added a lot of personnel this year,” Mr. Ciruli said. “We are trying to make sure that when we have increased business and increased volume, we have enough people to handle the increased phone calls coming and the increased e-mails.”
Last March, the company hired Joe Calenda as director of foodservice and retail programs.
Mr. Calenda is “a veteran produce guy who came out of the retail world” and also has foodservice sector experience, which is “an interesting mix,” Mr. Ciruli noted. He was with Sysco for the last several years and previously was with Dominick’s Supermarkets. “We feel that we understand the retail business pretty well, but we wanted to understand the foodservice business better so we added Joe Calenda to our sales staff,” he said.
Also new on sales is Irma Coronado-Robles, who was previously with the Nogales office of Crown Jewels. “She was actually our customer rep last year from over there and handled our account very well in our opinion,” Mr. Ciruli said. “She has a nice presence on the phone.”
New in sales support is Carolina Barnett, who was previously with Malena, and Arcella Rangel, who is new to the industry.