“When you go into Nevada, New Mexico, El Paso, what do you do with those trucks once you get into those markets?” Reinauer said.
A lack of produce to haul out can make it more expensive to hire transportation to deliver to those areas. It can also mean there are fewer trucks available to deliver there.
It’s likely that truckers who haul produce in to a nonagricultural area will haul some other refrigerated or frozen products out, Reinauer said.
Amerifresh is a third-party logistics provider, in addition to being a fresh produce marketer to foodservice distributors, wholesalers and retailers. It sells to customers in Arizona and Utah, and does some business in Nevada and New Mexico, Reinauer said.
Felix said his Southwest buyers are not requesting much organic produce. The company doesn’t currently offer organic produce, but it plans to add greenhouse-grown organic tomatoes within the next couple of years.
Willie Itule Produce Inc., Phoenix, is adding organic produce, beginning with baby arugula, baby spinach, celery, broccoli, tomatoes and other common types of produce. Owner Willie Itule said adding organic produce to his line strengthens his company.
“The more I can offer, the better I’ll be,” he said.
Itule said he thinks growth in organic produce sales in Arizona has slowed during the past three or four years, but the overall growth in organic sales for the past decade has been good. He said he thinks improved quality and more affordable prices are primary factors in consumers’ increased interest in organic produce.
The locally grown movement has caught on in many markets, as consumers look for opportunities to buy from nearby sources and support local businesses. Itule said he thinks locally grown produce is more popular now because it can be more affordable and because retailers are focusing on local produce in their marketing.
“When the economy turned down, retailers backed off organics and went to local,” he said.
Itule Produce, however, doesn’t carry much local produce because food safety is a more important factor for Itule.
“Until I can check out each small grower, it’s too much of a risk,” he said. “I support the larger growers that have food safety programs.”
Itule Produce sources mostly from growers in California and Arizona, Itule said.
Felix said he doesn’t see much demand for locally grown tomatoes.
“People are not locked up to looking specifically for locally grown produce, especially at this time of year, when produce is being imported,” Felix said.