“It gave me an opportunity to get a feel for what exporting produce is all about when it comes to rules, and regulations,” he said. “It was excellent learning how to deal with outside customers, how they are reshaping their programs and quality control. And also their distribution is getting up there with cold storage and reefers, so we can more efficiently transport commodities.”
This year also was the first time that buyers from China, Canada and Mexico attended the expo as well as toured some of the nearby packing facilities, said Candy Hansen-Gage, director of the Center for International Trade Development, Clovis.
Fowler-based National Raisin Co., which packs under the Champion label, hosted a tour stop through its processing facility, said David Miller, global accounts manager.
“They were surprised how sophisticated we were and the degree and attention we have for quality,” he said. “And all of the labs — the USDA, our own R&D and quality control — they didn’t realize there was so much sophistication to providing such a safe product.”
Hank Shen, fresh food general merchandising manager for Ole’ Supermarket who was one of 15 buyers from China, said he’s always looking for unusual or unique varieties of fresh, frozen or dried fruit.
What caught his eye were finger limes from Phillips Farms, Visalia, Calif., and dried fruit from BellaViva Orchards, Denair, Calif.
“Chinese shoppers prefer something high in moisture levels and also very sweet,” Shen said through translator Yan Zhang.