Pain from low markets
Low markets, particularly minimum tomato prices, remain a wrinkle in distributors’ and retailers’ profitability, he said.
“We had a growth in business this past year but because of the low markets, that’s where we see the effect,” Penza said. “It gets more competitive. ... It’s not a lack of business that hurts us. It’s the market. Whenever the markets are very low, it affects us.”
While it’s hard for distributors to make a living in today’s economy, Chip Wiechec, president of Hunter Bros. Inc., said it’s especially hard on grower-shippers.
He said ever-increasing energy costs drive up prices, and lettuce shippers are putting $5-6 cartons on a truck that costs $8,000 to ship across the country.
Wiechec said Philadelphia isn’t much different from other major cities that suffered economic losses.
“We have the same struggles as every other large metropolitan area, but our mayor’s business friendly,” Wiechec said. “Our convention center and travel bureaus do a good job promoting this area. We have a lot of tourists and conventions.”