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Fresh produce flowing freely into Southeastern U.S. ports

In 2013 fresh produce was permitted to arrive into Florida ports for the first time in several decades under a pilot program agreed to by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was a great success and today fresh fruits and vegetables are flowing freely from offshore countries.

The program was the result of collaborative efforts by the Florida Perishables Trade Coalition, which was formed in 2012, and the USDA.GPAGardenCitTerminal2cContainer ships load and unload at the container berths at the Georgia Ports Authority’s Garden City Terminal. (Photo courtesy of Georgia Ports Authority/Stephen B. Morton)

According to preliminary unaudited fiscal year 2014 statistics, more than 1 million 20-foot equivalent units — the standard measurement for cargo containers — moved through Port Everglades, nearly evenly split between imports and exports. A continually increasing portion of the import units were filled with fresh produce, primarily from Central America and South America.

“This is a huge accomplishment for our seaport and a credit to our customers who continued to build their businesses through the global recession with an eye toward the future,” Steven Cernak, chief executive and port director, said in a Nov. 3 press release.

PortMiami is also riding the produce import wave. It reports that The Port Tunnel makes PortMiami the only U.S. port with direct, non-stop access to the U.S. interstate highway system. Its rail and highway connections from the port ensure that perishable goods reach 70 percent of the U.S. population in four days or less. It boasts same-day delivery of perishable goods to markets in central Florida, with next-day service to markets in Atlanta and the Southeastern U.S.

PortMiami offers extended USDA hours of operation, and it has 228 million square feet of warehouse space with more than 13 new bulk warehouses under construction. It also lays claim to being the U.S. port closest to Latin America and the Caribbean, resulting in shorter shipping times and extended shelf life for perishables. It has more USDA staff than any other port of entry in the U.S., resulting in real-time, prioritized service, processing and faster release of perishables. It also has more than 1,000 reefer plugs and USDA authorization for on/off port fumigation.

In July 2014, the Port of Savannah, GA, announced that it would import South American citrus, grapes and blueberries that “will arrive sooner and last longer for consumers in the Southeastern U.S. thanks to the Georgia Ports Authority’s participation in the USDA pilot program.”

“South American fresh fruit destined to the Southeast market has traditionally been shipped to Northern U.S. ports,” said GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz. “Delivery to Savannah means fruits won’t have to be trucked as far to reach Southeastern markets, allowing fresher offerings for stores and longer shelf life for consumers.”

Starting Sept. 1, the Port of Savannah began handling fruit from South America that has undergone cold treatment, a process that prevents the transmission of agricultural pests.

Through the pilot program, citrus fruits, grapes and blueberries will be chilled for at least 17 days prior to entry into the U.S. to protect against fruit flies. The process will be done in producing countries — including Peru, Chile and Brazil — or at transshipment points such as Panama.

The fruit will move in refrigerated containers held just over freezing during transit aboard cargo vessels, effectively cutting the time the fruit must remain stationary for treatment.

Specialty crop grant earmarked by IEOOC for export market expansion

A $40,000 specialty crop grant from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture is being used by the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee's export committee to seek additional outlets for Spanish Sweets in foreign markets.

IEOOC's federal marketing order represents more than 300 growers and 36 shippers in the Treasure Valley area of Idaho-Eastern Oregon, and currently 22 shippers are exporting Spanish Sweets to foreign markets.exporttrademission2IEOOC Export Committee Vice Chair Joe Standage (right) meets with an importer/distributor during an early November trade mission to Brazil. (Photo courtesy of Idaho Department of Agriculture Markets Division) The export committee members are Joe Farmer, Fort Boise Produce, chairman; Logan Skeen, Skeen Farms, secretary/treasurer; Joe Standage, Standage Produce, vice chair; Tim Gluch, Golden West Produce; Bill Hartman, Hartman Farms; and Weston Schulties, Schulties Farms.

The grant was approved earlier in 2014, and IEOOC Executive Director Candi Fitch said it has expanded the export committee's capacity for promotions in Mexico as well as for trade missions to Central America and South America over a two-year period.

“It has really increased our budget,” Fitch said in mid-November, shortly after a trade mission to Brazil had provided members of the committee insight into that South American country's foodservice marketplace.

Standage told The Produce News the trip to Brazil, which was his inaugural trade mission, was eye-opening both to him and to the importers and distributors in that country.

“We went there primarily to inform buyers about our larger onions, the colossals and super colossals,” Standage said. “We hope to educate them at the foodservice level about our onions, and we were also seeing first-hand the volume of onions they go through. Brazil is a big consumer of onions, and they do grow them there in different growing regions much like we have in this country. What we want to impress upon them is that we are an outlet to fill gaps in their crop and also that we have something that no one else does: our big Spanish Sweets.”

Standage went on to say that Brazil's middle class is increasing, which in turn will lead to an increase in restaurant dining and more demand for foodservice onions.

Fitch said another trade mission to Colombia is scheduled for February, and Standage will accompany members of the Western U.S. Agricultural Trade Association on that trip.

As the committee continues making inroads into Latin markets — a yellow onion program is increasing awareness in Mexico's retail markets for the Spanish Sweets — Canada remains the number one buyer of IEOOC exported product.

“We are always looking for new opportunities to build our export markets, and Canada is not only our largest but also a market that continues to grow,” Fitch said.

The committee has implemented a number of steps to reach out to offshore buyers, including shipper directories in Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish and French Canadian. All of the directories are downloadable from usaonions.com.

“And we want buyers to know that while our focus has traditionally been on North America, Central America and South America, our export shippers send onions worldwide. We're not limited to any area, and we ship to wherever phytosanitary regulations allow us to ship,” she said.

Potandon Produce a key sponsor for the Race to Feed the Hungry

The Idaho Falls Race to Feed the Hungry is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and Potandon Produce is partnering with Personal Best Performance, the event sponsor. As the largest monetary contributor to the Idaho Falls Community Food Bank, this event is critical to helping local Idaho families in times of need.

Every year on Thanksgiving Day, runners and walkers of all abilities take time away from their family events to join together as a community and raise awareness and money for the food bank.RTFH-Check-Presentation-10-Carly High of Potandon, Catherine Smith of the Idaho Community Foundation, Tom the Turkey and Michael Hays of Personal Best Performance.

In additional to sponsoring the event, Potandon Produce has also made a donation directly to the Idaho Falls Community Food Bank.  

Earlier this month, Michael Hays from Personal Best Performance was joined by Tom the Turkey at the Potandon office in Idaho Falls, ID, for a check presentation and meet and greet with the Potandon staff.

“Idaho Falls has been home to Potandon Produce since the company was founded," Ralph Schwartz, vice president of marketing, sales and innovation, said in a press release. "It’s a great place to work and we are honored to be part of a great event that truly helps local families."

Aldi names new CEO

Aldi Inc. announced that it has made a structural adjustment to its senior leadership organization in order to support the retailer’s further expansion both in the U.S. and internationally.

Jason Hart, who currently serves as president for Aldi U.S., has been promoted to a new role, effective April 1, 2015. Hart will become chief executive officer for Aldi U.S. and will be supported by Chuck Youngstrom and David Behm, who will continue in their roles of co-presidents for Aldi U.S.

Currently, Aldi is in the early stages of an accelerated strategic growth plan in the United States. Rising demand for Aldi is fueling significant expansion.

Aldi plans to open 650 new stores across the country, including expanding to Southern California, bringing its total number of U.S. stores to nearly 2,000 by the end of 2018. The expansion is expected to create more than 10,000 new jobs at Aldi stores, warehouses and division offices across the country.

GloriAnn contributes nearly $40,000 in charitable donations

As the holiday season approaches, GloriAnn Farms and partner Five Crowns Marketing are getting into the giving spirit. After two months of promotions, GloriAnn Farms announced this year’s charitable contributions totaled just shy of $40,000. For the third year in a row, donations were made to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc.sweeco

In partnering with both of these organizations, GloriAnn Farms and Five Crowns Marketing have run promotions with retailers to draw attention to these important causes. For every case of sweet corn sold to participating retailers during the month of August, GloriAnn Farms made a donation to the IFHF — totaling almost $19,000.

“The IFHF is today addressing a critical need: helping service members suffering the effects of traumatic brain injury and psychological health conditions," David Winters, president of IFHF, said in a press release. "The IFHF is addressing this need head-on by building a series of diagnosis and treatment centers to provide care for these wounded heroes. Thank you for your generous support and your concern for our wounded heroes in uniform and their families. Together we are helping to repay the debt all Americans owe them for their selfless service to our nation.”

Benefiting NBCF, the same was true for the Corn for the Cause campaign during the month of October. Through the sales of sweet corn to participating retailers, over $21,100 was donated to the NBCF. “For three years, GloriAnn Farms and Five Crowns Marketing’s support of our mission to help women now has impacted thousands facing a diagnosis of breast cancer,” Janelle Hail, NBCF co-founder and chief executive officer, said in the release. “The funds they’ve raised this October will help us provide life-saving early detection services for those in need in all 50 states.”

In addition to receiving thanks from the organizations themselves, consumers also shared their thoughts with GloriAnn Farms regarding support of such worthy causes. “We received some really positive feedback from people via our social media platforms and website this year,” said Katie Veenstra, director of marketing for GloriAnn Farms. “Many people are affected by breast cancer in one way or another and we all owe thanks to our Armed Forces, so these are two causes that most everyone can connect with and are happy to support.”

“GloriAnn Farms and Five Crowns Marketing strongly believe in giving back to the community, and being able to make these donations to such worthy organizations is truly an honor. Year after year, we are proud to continue our partnerships with both IFHF and NBCF,” Mark Bacchetti, president of GloriAnn Farms, said in the release. “We hope these partnerships will thrive for years to come!”