Produce Watch – Limes

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produce watch

April 01, 2014 – Limes

We’re used to the elusiveness of certain scarce and seasonal gastronomical treasures like black truffles that are priced and meted out accordingly. But no one could have predicted the strange twist that threatens to turn guacamole, Key lime pie and margaritas into rare delicacies.

A sudden and unprecedented shortage of limes has sent nationwide wholesale prices soaring from around $25 for a 40-pound carton in early February to more than $100 today, panicking lovers of Mexican food and drinks – and the restaurant and bar owners who cater to them. The culprits are weather, disease and even Mexican criminals.

In the 1970s Americans consumed an average of less than half a pound per person of limes a year, most of them grown in southern Florida. Immigration from tropical countries, and the growing taste for their foods, helped raise consumption to over two and a half pounds today. Meanwhile, low-priced competition from Mexico, the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and an eradication campaign to fight canker disease in 2002-06 wiped out the Florida groves.

Mexico is now the world’s largest producer and exporter of limes, and provides some 95 percent of United States supplies. Generally, the lime harvest is smaller and prices are higher from January through March, but in November and December severe rains knocked the blossoms off lime trees in many areas, reducing lime exports to the United States by two-thirds. California, with just 373 acres, is now the largest domestic lime source – but it produces less than 1 percent of national consumption, and its season is late summer and fall, so it’s no help right now.

Other factors may also be squeezing the lime market. Since 2009 a bacterial disease that kills citrus trees, huanglongbing (HLB, also known as “greening”), has spread across many of Mexico’s lime-growing districts. Largely because of HLB, harvests in Colima State, a major producer of Key limes (the small, seeded, highly aromatic type preferred in Mexico), have dropped by a third in the past three years.

The disease has not yet reached Veracruz State, Mexico’s leading source of Persian limes – the large, seedless type exported to the United States, also known as Tahiti and Bearss – but the shortfall of Key limes is most likely spilling over into the Persian lime market. If HLB invades and takes hold in Veracruz, as it probably will in a few years, the era of cheap limes may well be over for good. The lime hysteria we’re starting to see now may be only a taste of what’s to come.

Farmers have already been stripping their trees to cash in on sky-high prices, said David Krause, president of Paramount Citrus, which grows Persian limes in Tabasco State for the United States market. Such premature harvesting exacerbates the shortage because the fruit never grows to normal size and is 20 to 40 percent lower in volume, he added.Alldvertisement

As a result of high prices and rampant lawlessness in some Mexican regions, criminals who may be linked to drug gangs are plundering fruit from groves and hijacking trucks being used for export, said Bill Vogel, president of Vision Produce, a Los Angeles-based importer. A truck headed for Vision’s sister company in Texas was hijacked two weeks ago in Mexico, he said, and growers and shippers now are hiring armed guards to protect their green gold.

The produce wars on the ground are not limited to limes. Criminal cartels now control, to a shocking extent, the growing and packing of much of the Mexican produce on which United States consumers depend. An article last November in the Mexican newspaper Vanguardia reported that the Knights Templar drug cartel has used kidnapping, murder, money laundering and terror to take over the lucrative avocado business in Michoacán, the top state for production and export of the fruit.

Criminal elements also have significantly infiltrated the Mexican mango industry to launder money, said Richard Campbell, a horticulturist and mango expert who travels to Mexico several times a year as a consultant.

All of this suggests an uncertain fate for limes, a fruit we’ve taken for granted for so long. This time the crisis is likely to be temporary. As new crops mature, prices should be back down near $30 by June, and there should be plenty of limes this summer, Mr. Vogel said. But it is important to recognize that we do give up a measure of food security by importing from countries destabilized by the drug trade, corruption and unchecked crime.

While it is ironic that the current lime crisis may in some part be blowback from our own drug policies, it is crucial to remember that a few months of inconvenience to American margarita lovers is trifling compared with the anguish of Mexicans whose livelihoods and lives have been destroyed.

March 22, 2014 – Bell Peppers

The green bell pepper market is becoming increasingly active and is experiencing strong demand. Product is anticipated to be short in supply for the next 21 days. The market is being influenced by the following factors:

Product from Nogales:

Nogales growing region is in a state of transition.
Majority of growers have planted squash , cucumbers or melons instead of peppers
Bell peppers that were planted for this time of year were affected by the Hurricane that
hit in August
We are seeing Green Bell acreage yield smaller sizing and production will be running out 2-3 weeks earlier than expected.

Product from California

Production out of Coachella is behind schedule
Harvest is not expected to start until the week of April 14th.

** As growers move to pick the green bells, this will start to have a ripple effect on the availability
of the colored pepper as well**

We expect the market to remain active through the month of March and into April.

March 8, 2014 – Broccoli and Cauliflower Alert

Broccoli supplies are quickly becoming very short and limited in supply. Market prices are rising quickly due to a rapid overall decline in raw product availability and weather conditions that interrupted earlier plantings. Quality issues of open bead and flowering are being reported.

Cauliflower supplies are lighter this week and market is becoming active. We anticipate higher markets due to limited supplies and strong demand. Quality issues of discoloration and inconsistent sizing are being reported.

Broccoli and cauliflower florets production is also anticipated to be effected by the limited supplies of raw product material

We anticipate the current markets to remain active and unsettled for the next 2-4 weeks.

March 4, 2014 -CommittedTater Nation

In a new survey by the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC)*, 97% of Americans said they eat potatoes, and more than 81% enjoy them as a side dish, snack or main course on average of three days per week. Conducted prior to Potato Lover’s Month (February), the survey polled 1000 nationally representative Americans ages 18 and over, and delivered unambiguously pro-potato results. According to Frank Muir, IPC President/CEO, “America’s favorite vegetable is now consumed three times a week, up from two times weekly in 2009.”

Other “eye-opening” revelations include:

More men than women (84% vs. 78%) eat potatoes once a week

Regionally, Midwesterners are most likely to eat potatoes at least once a week (88%)

Popularity of preparations rank with ease of preparation-Baked (29%), Mashed (25%), French fries (17%), Hash browns (9%), Potato chips (5%)

Consumers aged 45+ favor baked potatoes (36% vs. 23% for ages 18-44)

Consumers aged 18-44 prefer French fries (21% vs. 12% for age 45+)

Nearly 25% chose potatoes as the vegetable they crave (leafy greens follow at 20%)

72% said they would eat Idaho potatoes in preference to potatoes from other states.

February 26, 2014 -Yellow and Red & White Onion Alert

Prices of Red Yellow and White onions have been increasing since the first of the year due to increasedseasonal demand. Continued delays in the start of winter production from Mexico, as well as decreasingyields from the storage crop in Idaho and Washington have driven the market to a volatile level. Weexpect prices to remain well above average thru March and into April. Please stay tuned for weeklyupdates.

February 20, 2014 – Deadly Citrus Threat

In California, citrus is part of our history and landscape. We’re the #1 fresh citrus producing state in the nation and California homeowners have more citrus trees in our yards than in any other state.

Now the state’s citrus trees are under attack. The Asian citrus psyllid is spreading throughout California and it can carry a tree disease called Huanglongbing (HLB), which is a death sentence for California citrus. HLB has already been found in the state, and there is no cure. But, with all of us working together we can save our backyard citrus trees and the state’s $2 billion citrus industry.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program, the United States Department of Agriculture and others are enlisting the help of homeowners across the state to battle the Asian citrus psyllid and HLB.

The public service announcements available for TV and RADIO in :60, :30 and :20-second versions give viewers facts about pest and disease, including what to look for, and what to do if they think they found the pest or disease.

The non-commercial spots, with no end date, are provided by the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program.

Many in your audience are among the millions of California homeowners whose backyard citrus trees are at risk. We ask you to join us in the fight to save California citrus by downloading and airing these PSA spots whenever you have time available.

For more information on the threat from the Asian citrus psyllid and HLB, visit www.californiacitrusthreat.org.
lemon-tree-258x300

February 13, 2014 – Kumquat

Kumquats or cumquats are a group of small fruit-bearing trees. The edible fruit closely resembles that of the orange but it is much smaller and ovular, being approximately the size and shape of a large olive. Depending on size, the kumquat tree can produce hundreds or even thousands of fruits each year. The plant is native to south Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. Culinary uses include candying and kumquat preserves, marmalade, and jelly. Kumquats can also be sliced and added to salads. In recent years kumquats have gained popularity as a garnish for cocktail beverages, including the martini as a replacement for the more familiar olive.

kumquat

January 28, 2014 – Seedless Watermelon Alert

Extremely short supplies out of Mexico and Central America have advanced markets on seedless watermelon. The market has moved into a demand exceeds supply situation. Prices are exceptionally high and could continue to climb thru this week. The southern seedless watermelon crop experienced heavy rains two to three weeks ago that wiped out a good part of the fields that should be in production now through mid-February. Supplies are going to be very limited with an extreme gap in supplies. Expect to see some new crop starting around the week of Feb 17th.

watermelon

December 12, 2013 – Spinach Affected by Cold Temperature

Due to the heavy rainfall and the freezing temperatures experienced the past 14 days, the quality of spinach is being affected. The varieties planted for this time of year are not designedfor heavy rainfall; therefore they were impacted with mechanical damage in internal moisture.The tender leaves used to pack were burnt by the ice which has reduced the supply andcreated quality issues. All growers in this region are experiencing the same issues. You shouldalso expect the shelf life to be somewhat shorter due to the stress the plants were put under.This situation will continue through this week and possibly through next week depending oncurrent weather conditions.

spinach

Courtesy of FreshPoint

December 12, 2013 – Strawberry Update

Strawberries continue to be in a demand exceeds supply situation. Production from Oxnard, Coachella and Central Mexico continues to be light due to erratic weather patterns in all areas.There was significant rain this past weekend followed by freezing temperatures which havelimited the ability to harvest. Santa Maria is done for the season. Sizing continues to run verysmall and quality is marginal. Quality issues of white shoulders, bruising, light mold and decay arebeing reported. The industry is predominantly packing an 8/1lb pack. For the next 2-4 weeks,the industry will be extremely light on supply and quality on what remains available to ship willbe fair at best.

strawberryCourtesy of FreshPoint

December 12, 2013 – Asparagus Alert

Strawberries continue to be in a demand exceeds supply situation. Production from Oxnard,Coachella and Central Mexico continues to be light due to erratic weather patterns in all areas.There was significant rain this past weekend followed by freezing temperatures which havelimited the ability to harvest. Santa Maria is done for the season. Sizing continues to run verysmall and quality is marginal. Quality issues of white shoulders, bruising, light mold and decay arebeing reported. The industry is predominantly packing an 8/1lb pack. For the next 2-4 weeks,the industry will be extremely light on supply and quality on what remains available to ship willbe fair at best.

asparagusCourtesy of FreshPoint

November 15, 2013 – State of the Mushroom

The domestic supply of fresh product has decreased significantly in the past year with the closing of two major white and brown mushroom producers, California Mushroom Farm and Rakhra. There are additional rumors of others which will reveal themselves over the coming months. These closings have resulted in approximately 30 million pounds of product being removed from production.

Currently, there is little confidence this volume of product will be replaced quickly. Unfortunately, this trend has been ongoing for the past several years across the industry. We have seen Creekside, Franklin Farms, Oregon Trail and others suffer the same fate. Compounding this supply decline is an increased demand from retail and foodservice.

Additionally, we are fast approaching the holiday season and heavy retail demand will compound these challenges. During the holidays mushroom shippers are most likely to short customers and push farm capacities producing weaker product and/or packs.

mushroomCourtesy of FreshPoint

October 17, 2013 – 2014 Produce Development Executive Program

In today’s rapidly changing industry, demands on executives are more heightened than ever before. The 2014 United Fresh Produce Executive Development Program is designed to help today’s produce industry executives sharpen their business acumen and enhance their executive leadership skills. The program is presented in partnership with the Cornell University Food Industry Management Program, and takes participants through a unique learning experience. Attendees learn about cutting-edge theory and industry best practices, and engage in thought-provoking discussions about critical business issues affecting the global produce industry. The course exposes executives to the latest business trends.

Courtesy of United Fresh Produce Association

October 17, 2013 – United Fresh

United Fresh is working with industry allies and key lawmakers on Capitol Hill to focus action on the Farm Bill, guest worker processing and other time-sensitive produce industry priorities. On the Farm Bill, Agriculture Committee leadership from the Senate and House of Representatives has announced the negotiators who will work out the differences between those two bodies’ versions of the bill. They’ve scheduled an October 28 meeting to begin drafting a unified bill to send to the House and Senate for debate and passage. United Fresh continues to work with its allies in the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance on a final set of specialty crop priorities to be conveyed to the Conference Committee.

Courtesy of United Fresh Produce Association

posted by Tiffany Haslacker

October 14, 2013 – Produce – “Nobody is Perfect”

German retailer Edeka has launched a four-week test to determine whether misshapen carrots, blemished apples and other less-than-perfect fresh produce will move if it’s marked down and labeled “nobody is perfect.” The move and similar programs by other European grocery chains, including Coop in Switzerland, are aimed at reducing food waste by keeping the ugly fruits and veggies out of the trash bin. More than a billion tons of food are thrown out worldwide each year, at a cost of about $750 billion, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Read the full article here

posted by Tiffany Haslacker

September 24, 2013 – Broccoli and Cauliflower

Broccoli
Supplies of broccoli are very short. The market is active due to lighter plantings and inconsistent weather patterns. Occasional quality issues of hollow core are being reported.

Cauliflower
Supplies of cauliflower are lighter this week and the market is active. Higher markets are anticipated due to limited supplies are strong demand. Quality issues of discoloration and inconsistent sizing are being reported.

courtesy of FreshPoint

posted by Tiffany Haslacker

September 24, 2013 – Avocado

The avocado market remains extremely active with limited supplies and strong demand. The market is being influenced by the following factors:

Very little Chilean fruit is being imported

Peru is done for the season

California continues to produce fruit but is steadily declining in volume. Production will be ending by mid October out of California

Mexico is the main country of origin we would normally be relying on this time of year, but production is down. Low production in Mexico is due to the low maturity levels in the fruit which is preventing harvesting and major rain storms have impacted availability of fruit to harvest.

Mexico is expecting 8 to 10 tropical storms in the next three weeks

avocado

Courtesy of freshpoint

posted by Tiffany Haslacker

September 12, 2013 – Citrus

In California, citrus is part of our history and landscape. California is the number one fresh citrus producing state in the nation, and California homeowners have more citrus trees in our yards than in any other state.

Now the state’s citrus trees are being threatened. The Asian citrus psyllid is spreading throughout California and it can carry a tree disease called Huanglongbing (HLB), which is a death sentence for California citrus. HLB has already been found in the state, and there is no cure. When a tree is infected, it will die. But, with all of us working together we can save our backyard citrus trees and the state’s $2 billion citrus industry.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program, the United States Department of Agriculture and others are enlisting the help of homeowners across the state to battle the Asian citrus psyllid and HLB.

Homeowners are being asked to inspect their trees for signs of the Asian citrus psyllid and HLB, and report suspicious pests and signs of HLB immediately to the California Department of Food and Agriculture hotline: 800-491-1899.

For more information on the threat from the Asian citrus psyllid and HLB, visit http://www.californiacitrusthreat.org/

Courtesy of Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program

oranges

September 11, 2013 – Tomato

Hazera Genetics, the developers of cherry tomatoes, cluster tomatoes and seedless watermelons, has achieved a new milestone with the development of the exceptionally flavorful Maggie gourmet tomato.

“Maggie is the culmination of six years of painstaking work via traditional cross-breeding techniques,” said Gadi Ben Ariel, PhD, School of Agriculture, Hebrew University. “The flavor demonstrates that success.”

Sold in specially labeled trays saying “The Tastiest Gourmet Tomato in Israel” in supermarkets across Israel, Maggie has been very well received, which is quite an accomplishment in a country that brags the highest per capita consumption of tomatoes worldwide. Chefs have been featuring Maggie in their restaurants, to great acclaim from their patrons.

Courtesy of Hazera Genetics

tomatoposted by Tiffany Haslacker

September 7, 2013 – Strawberries

The strawberry market continues to be extremely active and remains in an unprecedented demand exceeds supply situation. Strawberry plants are in their late summer stage, which produce weaker quality fruit. This will continue until the fall crop starts up in the next few weeks in Santa Maria. The industry is in the midst of typical harvest declines in Northern California for this time of year. Harvest declines combined with quality and labor issues are dropping production numbers further down each week.

The month of September is anticipated to be a particularly volatile month for strawberry supplies and suppliers. Quality issues continue to be reported upon arrival. The main quality defects are bruising, overripe, light mold and decay. The current damp and colder coastal temperature mixed with humidity is the main cause of the soft fruit. We are recommended that you keep your inventories tight and only order what is needed. For the next 4-6 weeks, the industry will be extremely light on supply and quality on what is available to ship will be fair at best.

Courtesy of FreshPoint

Produce Watch - Strawberryposted by Tiffany Haslacker

August 6, 2013 – Gravenstein Apples

The Gravenstein apple is a highly sought out heirloom apple that is one of the best around for eating, baking and making apple sauce but it is extremely rare, has a very short season, is a challenge to harvest and is on the brink of extinction.

In an effort to save the Gravenstein Apple, The FruitGuys, a green and sustainability focused company that provides farm-fresh fruit and vegetables to American workplace and homes nationwide, is offering a limited time only Gravenstein Apple Box and is donating 16% of its nationwide sales of the boxes proceeds directly back to the farmers who grow the Gravenstein Apple. As a bonus, California residents will receive FREE SHIPPING – A $20 savings!

posted Tiffany Haslacker

August 1, 2013 – Iceberg Lettuce

There is a slight gap in western Iceberg production, probably resulting from recent warm weather and light plantings coupled with recent good demand, leaving mainly immature product in current fields. Many local/regional markets have been hit with erratic weather conditions further exacerbating the situation. Iceberg is in a “demand exceeds” situation for commodity as well as value added salads. Demand could pick up even more as schools begin to open back up this month.

Commodity Iceberg Lettuce: Iceberg condition and quality are poor to fair. Sysco/FreshPoint is noting some defects due to light weight, puffy heads, over sizing, and a few defects due to internal burn, fringe burn, seeder, misshapen heads, and mildew. Current commodity Iceberg weight average is 43-45 lbs. Trimmed Iceberg is of fair condition and quality with a few defects due to over sizing, puffy, and mechanical damage. Current trimmed weight per box is averaging 35-37 lbs.

posted by Tiffany Haslacker

August 1, 2013 – Lemons

The lemon market is currently in a demand exceeds supply situation. The supplies of off-shore fruit from Chile arriving in the US this year is only about 40% of what they shipped last year. This has decreased the overall supply of lemons in the market place and has driven the market significantly higher on California lemons. The Mexican lemon crop is four weeks behind their usually start but should begin shipping within the next week or two. Current anticipation is that the Mexican lemon supply will be quickly absorbed into the market which will keep the market active until the California/Arizona desert crop starts production in late September.

The packinghouses are working very hard to get the right fruit into the market, but it is hard to keep up with the unprecedented demand we are experiencing.The supply demand situation will most likely not change until the first of October.

courtesy of FreshPoint Produce

posted by Tiffany Haslacker