Florida strawberries deal with Mexico - The Packer

Florida strawberries deal with Mexico

09/28/2012 09:07:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Doug Ohlemeier, Eastern EditorDoug Ohlemeier, Eastern EditorAs Florida strawberry growers lay their bedding and transplant their plants for their winter production, a new threat to their marketing window is emerging.

This threat, however, isn’t a pest or disease.

Some growers are viewing Mexico as a potential threat.

Ted Campbell, executive director of the Dover-based Florida Strawberry Growers Association, said Mexico added 10 million flats of production, which equates to retailers absorbing 1.5 million to 2 million flats a week during the season.

Campbell’s not upset at Mexico, though.

Instead, he wants to find ways to differentiate Florida production, and the answer to him is to better market Florida fruit and compete in the free marketplace on the basis of quality.

“We could be collateral damage and will be under the bus if we can’t efficiently market our fruit,” Campbell said.

“Instead of spending money on lawyers fighting each other legally, we would prefer to spend our money driving more consumption so that everyone’s product gets eaten. That’s the best of both worlds. We’re all working for the same endgame. What we want is the American market share. The best way to do that is to increase consumption.”

Retailer support is necessary to accomplish that.

A former retailer himself, Campbell says Florida’s strawberry industry is looking at connecting with retailers and telling them growers need help and support from them.

Campbell said breeders and growers are working hard to improve Florida’s berry flavor attributes, which he says will help encourage more retailers to place domestic product on their shelves.

For retailers to merchandise Florida fruit, growers must do their part by packing high-quality berries.

Campbell said Florida used to call itself the winter strawberry capital. However, he points to production gains in Mexico, Spain and even Southern California.

“Without a strong Florida marketing program, we will continue to lose market share,” Campbell said.

“We can spend a million dollars a year on research to improve production, but when supply exceeds demand, we all know what happens. If we can’t increase consumer demand for profitable levels of growing Florida berries, all that wonderful research improvement may just be helping someone else.”

Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Wish Farms, Plant City, Fla., agrees it’s a matter of producing a quality product.

“There’s always going to be competition, whether it’s Mexico or California,” Wishnatzki said.

“I think we need to get our message out to consumers when the Florida berries are available. Hopefully, consumers will help drive that demand for chain stores to purchase more Florida berries because most consumers would prefer the domestic product.”

As grower opinions are diverse, Campbell said he’s not sure what the industry plans to do to influence that change.

He’s looking for increased marketing but said it’s ultimately up to growers to decide how they want to invest their resources.

One thing’s for sure, they don’t want a long and protracted trade war that wouldn’t likely benefit either side.

dohlemeier@thepacker.com

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tom    
florida  |  October, 01, 2012 at 03:29 PM

Florida produces and packs a great strawberry(with help from mother nature,when she is nice) and we spend millions of dollars on research and patents which mean nothing to other countries. If we develope a great berry other countries are going to copy it for nothing and as all American growers will tell you we cannot afford to sell with all the regs we have as cheap as other nations. I will put my work ethic and passion for the business up against any country but give me a level playing field.

Gregory Smith    
Lakeland, FL  |  October, 02, 2012 at 04:10 PM

Improved cold chain management. Bring the cold chain to the berries. This will improve quality, shelf life and create an area of differentiation. The COLDPICK mobile harvest tunnel.

JC    
Arizona  |  October, 05, 2012 at 06:03 PM

Note that many of the Mexican berry deals are finaced and in partners with Americans and Chileans, that's who your competiton is on the berry deal, your compatriots. And in tomatoes Lippmann, Procacci, Esformes, Village Farms, Windset, Euro Fresh and many Canadian companies are finacing and partered up with Mexcian growing operations. If yo have yur head buried if you think this si all about Mexicans, the guys who signed to suspend the Agreement are into Mexican growing operations up to their neck.

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