Distributors report Florida produce sales strong

02/25/2014 11:29:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

ORLANDO, Fla. — Produce sales are generally consistent for many Florida distributors.

While some wholesalers in The Sunshine State report below-average sales, most others characterize produce movement as consistent or a little better than normal.

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach

Florida’s largest populated areas, the distinct metropolitan areas of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, are doing well in terms of the overall economy, said Bruce Fishbein, a partner with The Produce Connection Inc., Miami.

“The overall Miami economy is not doing that badly,” he said in January. “South Beach is doing very well. I don’t think this area got badly hurt by the recession. With less room to rebound, there’s not that much of a marked difference.”

The colder weather people in the Northeast experienced during the winter of 2014 helped attract tourists to south Florida and keeps produce moving in the restaurants that are reporting busier sales, said Walter Vazquez Jr., chief executive officer of Miami-based Freedom Fresh LLC.

“With the cold weather in the north, we’ve seen greater numbers of tourists visiting the south Florida region,” he said. “There were many weeks when we were the only warm place in North America. That helped drive tourism. This region makes for an attractive and viable option for people to thaw out.”

From Miami to the Indian River region, the area’s upscale restaurants, country clubs and hotels remain busy, said Jack Scalisi, president of Jack Scalisi Wholesale Fruit & Produce in West Palm Beach.

“It’s like people are willing to pay for quality again,” he said. “Not that they wouldn’t before but now more of them can afford better quality. That’s helped our sales. Our business in 2013 was very good. Produce sales are strong and should be the same this year.”

Tampa

Produce trade in the greater Tampa Bay region, which also includes St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Sarasota and Bradenton, remains healthy, said Louis Garcia Jr., president of the Tampa-based Crews & Garcia Inc.

“Produce sales have been pretty decent here,” Garcia said in late January. “Business hasn’t been too bad. Things are picking up a little. This past year, sales were up a bit.”

Produce sales are a little below average for Tampa-based Baird Produce Inc., said James Killebrew, vice president.

“I would say Tampa’s economy is probably close to the same as last year, maybe just a little stale,” he said. “That’s pretty much the way it’s been. We’re not noticing any huge difference in the way people are spending. It’s just down a little.”


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