Produce moves slow to steady in Big Apple - The Packer

Produce moves slow to steady in Big Apple

05/27/2014 10:09:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Despite a rough late 2013 and start to the New Year, wholesalers in The Big Apple characterize business as consistent if not strong.

Distributors fared through the series of winter storms that brought bitter cold, ice and snow to the region.

The extreme temperatures discouraged shoppers from visiting retail stores and restaurants, but the storms didn’t harm most of the distributors that coordinated deliveries to customers ahead of the storms.

Even-keel demand

Joe Palumbo, chief executive officer of New York-based Top Banana LLC and co-chairman of the Hunts Point Terminal Market in the New York City borough of the Bronx, said the many storms didn’t halt produce terminal operations.

“I am pleased to say that throughout all the storms this year, we didn’t close the market once,” he said. “We did not miss a beat. Was there business? No, but it’s good we didn’t have to close things down.”

Through the economic changes, Palumbo said produce demand remains consistent.

“Demand remains steady and is on an even keel,” he said. “Everyone tells you the economy isn’t great, but you go into Manhattan, you can’t get into a restaurant or park your car.”

Those storms severely disrupted movement and demand, said Alfie Badalamenti, vice president of Coosemans New York Inc.

Last year, January and February were milder and business was busier, he said.  

This year, however, the storms wrecked business, Badalamenti said.

“Demand is picking up now,” he said in mid-May. “Business is better and things are much busier. We are getting back to normal.”

Though the spring is bringing better movement, distributors are beset by some weather-caused product shortages and higher trucking costs, Badalamenti said.

Distributors point to an improving economy.

Improved economy

“The economy in general is better so people have more money,” said Bruce Klein, director of marketing for Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., Secaucus, N.J.
“They will hopefully spend it on produce. I don’t think we’re out of the woods. Though the economy’s improved, it’s still not back to where it was five years or so ago. It’s better than it was, but it’s not there yet.”

Other distributors report less vibrant sales.

“Overall, the produce economy has been flat,” said importer Nick Pacia, co-owner and vice president of New York-based A.J. Trucco Inc., which distributes throughout the East Coast. “Pricing has been high due to many issues related to weather, which have affected supply and demand. We are happy that our sales and movement have been up this year, however.”

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