Central American Produce expands melons, mangoes

10/27/2008 12:00:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

(Oct. 27, 3:03 p.m.) POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — Central American Produce Inc. is moving to a new facility, growing sweeter melon varieties and expanding its mango business.

The grower-shipper and importer of melons, vegetables and tropicals in mid-December plans to open operations in a larger and more modern facility on the grounds of Opa Locka-based American Consolidations & Logistics, a Miami-area operation co-owned by Marshall Glantz, executive director for American Fruit & Produce Corp.

The location, on the north side of Miami, is just a little south of Central American’s current operations in a 55-year-old building in Pompano Beach and will allow Central American to serve its customers in the year-round mangoes, pineapples and vegetables the company sells through more space, said Michael Warren, Central American’s president.

The new location has 70,000 square feet with room to expand, compared to the company’s current 40,000 square feet, Warren said. Warren said the new building should be Primuslabs.com-certified by the time the company relocates to the facility.

“The world keeps turning in today’s environment,” Warren said. “We’re trying to embrace it and take advantage of it. We’re making some changes in the way we have run our business in the last few years.”

During this year’s offshore melon shipping season, which is expected to start in late November, Central American plans to expand shipments of cantaloupe and honeydew with enhanced flavor attributes, first shipped this past season.

Central American has invested in varieties that have high flavor from its Guatemalan farms. Warren said the cantaloupe and honeydew varieties possess the natural appearance consumers are used to looking for, as well as the taste. Warren said Central American plans to introduce the melons as the season progresses.

The company is investing in developing one of its Guatemalan melon growing regions. The area, located at the elevation of 2,000 feet, offers cooler temperatures and allows for a much slower growing period. That provides melons sweeter flavor, a more golden look and thicker netting, Warren said.

In mangoes, Central American has grown its mango imports by 30% since last year. Warren said he expects similar growth this year, shipping from different regions throughout the year.

Warren said customers have reacted favorably to the program.

“We see the mango is growing in popularity,” he said. “With the mango promotion board’s work, we are expecting more people to eat mangoes. It’s a deal we like. It’s not an easy deal, but that’s why we like it. To bring it in and keep your customers happy takes a lot of work. You need the right growers and the ability to look at every box and make sure it’s the quality your customers expect.”

This coming offshore season, Central American expects to ship 8.5 million equivalent cartons, similar to last season, Warren said.

For melons, Central American’s core item, the company plans to ship 4 million cartons, down from 5.5 million cartons. Melon volume may decline by 10% to 15%, Warren said, because some Central American growers have left the business because of high costs and higher freight shipping expenses.



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