Traditional produce wholesalers don’t normally export produce to other countries.
But given Florida’s proximity to many Caribbean islands, exporting produce remains a natural for many Miami and Jacksonville-area distributors.
Export sales have increased 12% over last year for American Fruit & Produce Corp., Opa Locka, Fla.
Marshall Glantz, director of business development, exports and executive director, said the wholesaler has experienced tremendous sales growth in the export arena.
“I think the business is pretty much on an even keel, but it’s just that we have picked up a lot of additional business,” Glantz said.
American, which calls itself the largest U.S. produce exporter to the Caribbean, loads containers bound for 33 island countries. Glantz said American sells directly to owners, retailers and wholesalers, which distribute to island hotels and restaurants.
Glantz attributes American’s success in export sales to American’s owners personally visiting their Caribbean customers.
Produce Distribution Center LLC, Jacksonville, Fla., exports a full line of produce to wholesalers and service wholesalers that distribute to stores in Caribbean countries and Bermuda.
Larry Movsovitz, chairman and managing director, said the deal has remained solid.
“Even with last year, it’s a little better,” he said.
“I attribute the sales remaining strong to the fact that their economies are not in as bad a shape as we are here. Mainly in Puerto Rico, which is doing a lot of business.”
Because Caribbean and Bahamian customers can’t buy truckloads of product, Produce Distribution Center does a lot of consolidation, cross-docking and freight forwarding of product loaded in ship containers.
Tourism affects sales, however.
Walter Vazquez Jr., chief executive officer of Freedom Fresh LLC, Miami, said export sales have been off during the last couple of years.
“You just don’t have as many tourists visiting those islands,” he said.
“Like everyone else, they have had a rough time and are still fighting a challenging economy. None of those Caribbean countries are immune to that.”
Vazquez said he’s seeing export buyers purchasing more staple produce items and fewer specialties.
Freedom Fresh ships produce to island retailers as well as wholesalers who distribute to retail chains.
Bruce Fishbein, a partner with the Produce Connection Inc., Miami, said exports have remained steady.
The Produce Connection sells to about a dozen Caribbean countries.
“Though the U.S. has always been a leader in economic recovery, I believe this kind of recovery, the rest of the world is recovering and we’re rebounding off them recovering,” he said.