(June 30, 11:58 a.m.) A voluntary assessment by fresh fig growers is gaining steam, thanks to a push by the California Fig Advisory Board.

The voluntary half-cent per pound assessment, which goes toward promotional activities and research, will benefit the industry as a whole, said Denise Junqueiro, director of marketing for the California Fig Advisory Board, Fresno.

Various players in the industry have been pushing for a program like this since 2004, Junqueiro said.

“In 2005, it became engaged and part of the working order. Now everybody, about 90% are doing it voluntarily,” she said. “There’s still a few outside, about 10%, but we’re shooting for them.”

The program is similar to a mandatory assessment in dried figs, Junqueiro said.

“Ever since fresh figs started to become more popular, a lot of guys wanted to put money in to take it to the next level,” she said. “Now that they’ve seen what we’re doing and the opportunities we’ve created, they’re voluntarily taking part in the program.”

Many growers echoed this sentiment.

“We’re excited about having growers and marketers on board,” said Kevin Herman, owner of the Specialty Crop Co., Madera, Calif. “We’re hopeful we can do some good promotions.”

Industrywide promotions have raised the profile of fresh figs nationally, and many growers are pleased with the results.

“We’ve got our own identity now as opposed to dried figs,” Junqueiro said.

Promotional marketing is focusing on the emerging niche of figs within foodservice, particularly in fine dining restaurants where figs are trendy, Junqueiro said.

Using a part of the assessment, the fig board is revitalizing its Web site and marketing materials in an attempt to increase consumer knowledge about figs, Junqueiro said.

“The work we’re doing with the fresh fig board … we’ve sent a significant amount of ad promo to about 50 chains,” said Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager for Stellar Distributing Inc., Fresno. “We’re having in-store promos to hand out recipes to consumers, the demand is more than ever.”

Additionally, the assessment is allowing figs to have a presence in more trade shows.

“We’re targeting Canada through the Canadian PMA, and we’re going to play a bigger part of PMA this year,” Junqueiro said.

Another result of widespread participation in the assessment — more price stability, said Marc Marchini, sales coordinator for J. Marchini & Sons Inc., Le Grand, Calif.

“The growers, we had a meeting and said we’ve go to get a hold on this fig market. We need to work on how we’re going to benefit the fig industry,” Marchini said. “And this has contributed to a more stable market.”

A portion of the money is earmarked for research that will benefit the entire fig industry, Junqueiro said.

“We’re focusing specifically on post-harvest this year,” Junqueiro said. “Things like getting the registration and handling legality issues on SO2 (a preservative chemical used on grapes).”

Most growers on board with fresh fig assessment
A voluntary half-cent per pound assessment for fresh figs, which goes toward promotional activities and research, will benefit the industry as a whole, says Denise Junqueiro, director of marketing for the California Fig Advisory Board, Fresno.

Photo Courtesy Stellar Distributing