For 30 years, J.B. Cutsinger of International Citrus & Produce in Burlingame, CA, has been procuring top-notch citrus and other produce from around the world, including its Texas deal with oranges and grapefruit from the Rio Grande Valley, which will increase in volume this season. Since 2005, his son, Jim Cutsinger, has been on board and hopes to carry on the family tradition for at least another 30 years.
“He’s an amazing teacher — I don’t think I could learn this industry from anybody else the way that I have from him,” Jim Cutsinger said of his father. “When I was growing up, I was always hanging around, I’d spend my summers and winter breaks working in here. I worked in grocery produce sections to learn the retail end of the business, I worked other ends of the industry just to better understand. I wanted to learn the other aspects first and then come in with my father.”
J.B. Cutsinger said it is “a source of pride” to have his son working by his side and to have racked up three decades of success in a tough business. But, “You’ve got to keep a certain amount of humility in this industry. Once you start thinking your something special, it’s like golf: The gods come and get you. But I’ve been extremely fortunate and couldn’t be happier.”
Rounding out the team are Tony Campos, “our go-to guy for product procurement and Spanish sales,” and Eldy Campos, another longtime employee who handles payables and receivables.
Over time, ICP has grown from a local provider of citrus to an international company that also trades in vegetables, tomatoes, onions, peppers, pineapples, melons and a handful of other items. There was no grand design. Things just worked out that way.
“It was just being here every day for thirty-some years, the bobbing and weaving and the sorting out the good boys from the bad boys, it’s just happened,” J.B. Cutsinger said. “Nobody had a marketing plan when we started, we just came in and learned as we went in. There are a lot of lessons to be learned and you don’t learn them overnight.”
Limes have been a major part of ICP’s deal “for many, many years, and the production this year has increased in volume quite a bit without hurting the market,” J.B. Cutsinger said. “The overall demand for limes in North America has increased quite a bit over the last few years — they’re generally shipping in between 750 to 900 loads every 14 days. In the old days, with that kind of volume we would have had a pretty cheap market, but over the past several months here with the high volume we’ve maintained a good market. The lime deal has been one of our main deals.”
For a quarter-century, ICP has been working with the Veca Grupo in Santa Cruz, Mexico, to supply premium limes.
“We’re real proud of that relationship — we have our sleeves rolled up on all our relationships, but we’re especially proud of that one,” J.B. Cutsinger said.
As for ICP’s other citrus programs, “We’ve been importing Peruvian Honey Murcotts for the last seven years and that program continues to grow every year a little bit in volume — we start that at the end of August and will carry through to the front part of November. In October we’ll start in Texas with oranges and grapefruit and we sometimes go through May. We’ll also start Honey and Sunburst tangerines out of Florida about the time we end up with our Peruvian deal. We’ll just flow right into the Florida tangerines and a little Florida grapefruit,” J.B. Cutsinger said.