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As soon as June 27, 2016, avocados from any Mexican state will be allowed into the United States, as long as packers follow a systems approach for shipping and the protocol has been certified.

On Feb. 5, 1997, the U.S. Department of Agriculture first allowed limited shipments of Mexican avocados into the United States.  Initially, those shipments had to be from the state of Michoacán and were limited to 19 Northeastern states during a very limited time period in the winter.  In addition, each packingshed and each shipment had to be certified as being in compliance with the rules established by USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service.  Over the years, Michoacán gained more and more access to the U.S. market to the point where today it enjoys total access.  But again, each shed and each shipment must be certified as pest free and following the protocol.

Within the last year, APHIS signaled that it would be expanding the ability to ship to any packing shed in the country as long as it again followed the rules.  

On Thursday, May 26, 2016, APHIS released a pre-publication notice stating that the following day (May 27) the amended rule would be posted in the Federal Register.  While it could further tweak that posting, the notice revealed that the Hass avocado shipping protocol is being amended “to allow importation of fresh Hass avocado fruit into the continental United States, Hawaii and Puerto Rico from all areas of Mexico subject to a systems approach.”

The notice states that the action “expands an already successful Hass avocado import program with Mexico.”   It further states that the effective date of the new rule is June 27, noting that “commercial consignments of Hass avocados from all areas of Mexico with an approved operational work plan will be allowed into the U.S. accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate certified by the NPPO (National Plant Protection Organization) of Mexico indicating compliance with the systems approach prescribed.”

The June 27 effective date is dependent upon the actual posting in the Federal Register 30 days earlier on May 27.  This action was not unexpected, only the timing was in doubt.  

While this is expected to allow a greater volume of Mexican avocados the opportunity to come into the U.S. market, Michoacán is where the great majority of Mexican avocados are produced.  It is widely considered that packing operations in the state of Jalisco will be the first to be able to meet the certification requirements.  There is mature commercial production in that state with some packers already shipping to other export markets.  Several U.S. avocado distributors have working relationships with Jalisco producers.

Mission Produce Inc. in Oxnard, CA, which does have partnerships with Jalisco producers, does not expect this to have a major impact on the global marketing of avocados.  Vice President of Marketing Robb Bertels told The Produce News on May 26 that Jalisco avocados are already being marketed globally.  “This ruling won’t magically increase the supply of avocados,” he said.  “What it does is give Jalisco producers another market for their fruit.  We expect them to follow the money and sell that fruit where it is most profitable.”

He said Mission already sources fruit from Jalisco and sells it to buyers around the world.  Bertels did agree that over time there may be some avocado supplies currently sold in the national market that find their way to the generally more-lucrative global arena.  But he said the price differential between those two markets has been narrowing in recent years.  The Mission Produce executive did allow that the Jalisco fruit could have an impact on the general California marketing situation as the harvest time for that fruit is more aligned with the California season.  However, he reiterated that the volume of fruit from Michoacán already certified as able to come into the U.S. market greatly dwarfs even the potential production from Jalisco and other states, especially in the short term.

California Avocado Commission President Tom Bellamore also does not expect a huge impact from this APHIS decision on global supply nor on the California’s crop.  He said the notice indicated that the state of Michoacán has about 85 percent of Mexico’s production.  Some have estimated Jalisco’s potential volume at 100 million pounds, which is about 3 percent of Mexico’s total production, and virtually all of that is already in the marketplace.  Bellamore said Jalisco fruit has been shipped to Canada, Japan and Europe and there is no reason to think those relationships won’t be continued.  While Jalisco does ship fruit at the same time as California, its season is said to last through the fall and into January.  Certainly fruit shipped the second half of the Jalisco season would not impact California, which typically sees its supplies dwindling in late summer.  Even this year’s heavy crop should see close to 90 percent of California’s fruit marketed by Sept. 1.

A new grocery store offering a one-of-a-kind experience in Quebec officially opened its doors in the Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent. After more than 32 years on Keller Boulevard, the Duchemin Family has realized a dream — and met the hopes of customers — by moving its store a few streets away from where it first set down deep roots in the neighbourhood.

The new location represents a more than $13 million investment in the neighborhood and has added nearly 120 jobs to the existing 80, for a total of almost 200. It features 52,000 square feet of floor space and will offer all the services available under the IGA extra banner.

In 1984 Normand Duchemin opened the Duchemin Family IGA. His sons joined him later. “The experience has definitely brought Richard and me a whole new level of excitement about the grocery industry,” said co-owner Daniel Duchemin. “We’ve always been on the lookout for trends and what customers want. We love that. And Saint-Laurent has been such a welcoming community for our store.”

Grocer owners Richard, Daniel, and Francis Duchemin now oversee a model store in the IGA network. The opening also brings other good news for the grocers: the next generation is waiting in the wings. Francis Duchemin is part of the very first cohort of Programme Flambeau, a unique Quebec training initiative in grocery retailing instigated by Sobeys Québec/IGA at the request of merchants.

The new store has been built according to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification standards. It stands out in numerous ways:

  •     The roller-compacted concrete parking lot to fight heat islands.
  •     The many trees with very little need of water.
  •     Its low energy LED lighting.
  •     Its CO2 refrigeration.
  •     Its refrigeration doors for fresh produce to optimize energy efficiency, shopper comfort and product quality.
  •     The two electric car charging stations available free during store hours.
  •     The waste materials management room to optimize waste handling: compostable materials, fat and bones, plastic, paper, cardboard, glass and metal.

Hannaford Supermarkets has started selling some produce items that are less-than-perfect looking — along with the beautiful fruit and vegetables for which it is known — in the Albany, NY, area.hannroro

Called "Misfits" produce, these items may be slightly discolored or not uniform in size; in some instances they have an unusual shape or bump. The food is just as nutritious and flavorful as other produce, and it will be selling for a substantially lower price than its conventional cousins.

Hannaford's trial of this product line at Albany-area stores is part of an international trend in the sale of irregular-looking produce: popular in Europe and just beginning in parts of the United States.  The purchase of these items by Hannaford will help reduce food waste on farms, where an estimated 30 percent of crops do not make it to market because those fruits and vegetables do not have the ideal appearance.

"Our supermarkets pride themselves in making sure that any produce we don't sell goes to local food pantries or, when it is not appropriate for donation, to composting and animal feed," Hannaford Spokesman Eric Blom said in a press release. "Misfits takes that to another level by helping to reduce farm waste, while providing our customers with another option for nutritious fruit and vegetables."

Misfits items, which will vary from week to week, will be sold in the produce section of participating Hannaford stores.  The offering will include items such as apples, oranges, cucumbers, tomatoes, mini watermelon and squash.

The two big stories out of California’s Kern County potato deal this year are that there is a fairly good market and there are no russet potatoes.

The russet deal, which was the core of the California fresh potato industry for decades, has been in decline for 20 years and finally it is no more. A survey of the acreage revealed no russet acreage this year. For the past three years it has been below 1,000 acres, which is a far cry from its relatively recent peak of 8,600 acres in

Gary Askenaizer of Progressive Produce Corp. in Los Angeles said that over the years it has been harder and harder for Kern County producers to compete against the Northwest storage crops. Those areas have lower production costs that made it difficult for Kern County russets to get the premium pricing that the new potato crop used to command every year.

“It is just a sign of the times for the potato deal,” said Askenaizer. “They just can’t compete on russets, but it is remarkable considering how many russets Kern County used to grow.”

Instead, growers have focused on red, gold and white potatoes with the gold variety showing the most gain in recent years. This season, the golds are up about 20 percent with an additional 300 acres, bringing that item’s acreage above the 1,800-acre level. Reds still lead the way with more than 2,000 acres, followed by the white rose potato at about 1,100 acres. There are also some specialty potatoes, such as fingerlings, but those acreage numbers are not reported.

Askenaizer said the other news is that the deal got off to a good start. With the beginning of production in early May, the market was strong and though it settled down, it remained strong through the month. According to the U.S. Market News Service, 50-pound cartons of reds were selling in the $14 to $18 range, while golds and whites were a couple of dollars less.

Askenaizer said the reds, golds and whites still give Kern County a very nice new potato crop and a niche marketing opportunity as the storage-crop deals wind down in the late-spring time period.

Kern County is expected to have good supplies through the Fourth of July, with most sheds closing down by around July 10. However, there are several packer-shippers with potatoes from other California districts that continue shipping from Kern County through the summer.

Mike Haddad, sales manager for Kirschenman Enterprises Inc. in Edison, CA, also noted good early pricing for the deal, but was a bit dismayed by a weakening of the market in late May. He said May is typically a feeling-out period as all the production comes on line and Kern County finds its niche competing against other regions. June is usually a strong marketing month, especially for the reds, as other areas see a decline in the red, gold and white varieties.

On May 25, Haddad said the red market was not as strong as he expected it to be. After the Memorial Day weekend, demand typically increases, and he is again expecting that to occur.

Looking at the June marketing situation, Askenaizer was a bit more optimistic and expects the market to get stronger. He noted that Florida’s production of the same potatoes that California produces is winding down, which should create better demand for the Bakersfield production. Haddad acknowledged that possibility but said potatoes from Arizona also appear to be affecting the supply-demand situation.

The weather has cooperated very well this year, with cooler-than-normal termperatures so far. Heat is often the enemy of the potato crop, which is grown in the lower San Joaquin Valley where 100 degree days are not unusual in the late spring.

With the approaching Northwest cherry season, two tree fruit producers are urging retailers to flesh out the details of their programs to ensure maximum rings at the register.OpenerShot1

Steve Lutz, Columbia Marketing International’s vice president of marketing, is looking for a shorter peak window during the 2016 cherry season. He provided a chart that shows retail scan dollars for the cherry category during the 2015 season, saying “Indications are that this season will be similar.”

In order to hit the peak window for the week ending July 4, he said retailers should place cherries in their ads no later than June 20-24, “depending on how far the cherries had to be shipped. So, if a retailer wasn’t thinking about peak season and getting orders set and then loading in the last 15 days of June, they missed the best promotable volume of the entire season,” he told The Produce News.

“Retailers really have to focus on generating four months of cherry sales in June and July — probably prior to July 15,” Lutz continued. “It will take a keen focus for supermarkets with strong ads and big displays for about four to six peak weeks.

Lutz looks for a final mini-peak of the season to occur the week immediately after the July 4 holiday. “In a normal year, this peak would hit around July 20. So retailers will want to lock down ads and be shipping product right around the Fourth of July to take advantage of this harvest window,” he said.

Howard Nager, vice president of maketing for Domex Superfresh Growers, also shared his observations. “With cherries signaling the start of the summer season, their taste and enjoyment can be experienced for only a few months,” he told The Produce News. “Sales need to be maximized in both June and July. Promotions should be targeted with a combination of front page, back page and in-store features. In fact, this year would be ideal to run the Rainier variety side-by-side with the dark sweet promotions for holidays like Canada Day and the Fourth of July,” he said.

According to Nager, 98 percent of available Northwest cherry volume is sold during the months of June and July, with the balance of the crop sold in May and August. “It is important to note that there will be ad opportunities in early June, increasing with significant volumes beginning the week of June 15 through the later part of July,” he observed. “Successful retailers have found that they can maximize late-season dollar sales by promoting every week in July. Studies have concluded that stores earn up to an additional $17,000 with late-season cherry sales alone.”

An integral part of the fruit category, Nager said cherries control “nearly 7 percent of category dollars from June through August.”