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Snow storm disrupts New England produce trade

A major winter storm whipped through the Northeast Feb. 8, dumping up to three feet of snow in parts of New England and disrupting produce distribution in the area.

Skip Cavallaro, president of John Cerasuolo Co. Inc., located on the New England Produce Center in Boston, told The Produce News Feb. 11 that people in the area were concentrating on getting things cleaned up.

"People on all sides of all businesses and in their personal lives are focused on cleaning up and getting back to business and their lives," said Mr. Cavallaro. "This storm was predicted with heavy media coverage two and three days prior, so people bought up everything that was available in grocery stores. Even my wife bought things that we've never had in our kitchen before."

One major problem in Boston is that it is illegal to dump snow into the harbor. As a result, and at its expense, the city asks everyone to park in garages so that snow plows can get up and down the streets following the storm.

"The city has to find landfills and other places to dump the snow," which is a very expensive and time-consuming operation, said Mr. Cavallaro. And until the snow is off the streets, people can't move around as much."

Monday, he noted, was very quiet at the market because people were busy cleaning up and reassessing their needs. Some people lost power, but repairs were being made quickly.

"It will likely be an off-week," Mr. Cavallaro noted. "But things will be back to normal by early next week."

Patrick Burke, sales and purchasing representative for Garden Fresh Salad Co. Inc., also on the New England Produce Center, said that some people were buying normally on Monday, but some were not.

"Fortunately all of our trucks from the west and south came in before the worst of the storm hit," said Mr. Burke. "We are finding that the restaurant business is slow because they had to close on Friday and Saturday. They're likely assessing their needs and are running behind on their orders. But supermarkets were starting to restock on Monday. People bought everything in sight prior to the storm, so their shelves are pretty empty. We think things will be back to normal by about Thursday of this week."

"Prior to the storm my wholesaler at Hunts Point Terminal Market in the Bronx in New York got completely wiped out of supplies," Kevin Bartolotta, president of Bartolotta Inc. in Torrington, CT, told The Produce News. "He said he didn't have one package of anything left. Stores are empty today, so they'll be restocking. I expect that our office will be relatively busy this week."

Additionally, the storm forced the cancellation of the annual New England Produce Council Dinner Dance, which had been scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 9 in Boston. The council announced that the gala will be held Saturday, March 23 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston.