Slow-pays hamper New York terminal market business

04/29/2009 04:52:17 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

NEW YORK — With money tight and many produce sellers selling fewer boxes of produce, distributors are watching their accounts receivables more closely than ever.

Many at the Hunts Point Terminal Market say they’ve seen a big increase in customers taking longer than usual to pay.

“With the type of economy and with everything going on, especially in New York, we really have to watch our credit,” said Ira Nathel, president and vegetable buyer of Nathel & Nathel Inc.

“A lot of guys are trying to extend their payments. Or a guy comes to you and says he can’t pay right now because he didn’t get paid. I have had a lot of those incidents on the small scale, where little guys have been buying from you for years for a few thousand dollars a week. It’s not like it’s the big players. But I find the big players are trying to steal an extra week here and there also.”

The produce guy is often the last guy customers repay, Nathel said. He said distributors have to keep a close eye on foodservice purveyors only because they’re selling the restaurants which report slower sales.

Thomas Cignarella, president of Morris Okun Inc., said distributors have to watch who they sell.

“It’s a lot harder to collect money now,” he said. “Collections are a big issue. A lot of people don’t want to pay. It’s been bad but it has gotten worse.”

Distributors since May have had to become more vigilant on accounts receivables, said John Garcia, president of Krisp-Pak Sales Corp.

“They’re always trying to stretch things out a little,” he said. “Their customers back our customers up and our customers try to back us up. We certainly can’t go back to the shippers in California, Texas and Florida and tell them we can’t pay them. That doesn’t work. We have to do our jobs and maintain our credit standards.”

Matthew D’Arrigo, vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc., and co-chairman of the Hunts Point market, said slow-pays can cause problems.

“That is the only thing that will infiltrate our market in terms of economic realities,” he said. “You have to be very careful because our customers’ credit-worthiness is only as good as the worst financial decision he has made in the last couple of years. You just hope you don’t see a number of these people going out of business because of whatever poor decision-making process that affects their cash flow.”

Roni Okun, Morris Okun’s owner, said foodservice purveyors are finding it harder to collect payment from their restaurant customers.

“The foodservice distributors will have to be very much on guard the way they extend their credit, as we will have to be more on-guard on the way that we distribute credit,” Okun said.



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