Kellee Harris, western region business manager for The Giumarra Cos., and Gil Munguia, Nogales division manager, check on the company's squash plants in west Mexico.
Kellee Harris, western region business manager for The Giumarra Cos., and Gil Munguia, Nogales division manager, check on the company's squash plants in west Mexico.

The addition of organic and conventional acorn, butternut and spaghetti winter squash from Mexico to The Giumarra Cos.’s Fair Trade-certified line of fresh produce in November follows a well-established trend for the company.

“For several years, we have offered a broad range of Fair Trade-certified products including grapes, melons and asparagus,” said Gil Munguia, Nogales, Ariz., division manager for Los Angeles-based Giumarra. “We will continue to expand upon that line.”

The numbers seem to reward that commitment. Fair Trade produce volumes were up 48% in the first half of 2013 over the same period the year before, said Alexandria Coari, senior manager of produce and floral for Fair Trade USA.

Total imported volume was up 58% for 2012 as new growers joined the system and retailers and others began carrying more items, Coari said.

Giumarra is banking on growing numbers of consumers making social issues a higher priority.

“Within this group, knowing where their food comes from and that it is safe is no longer enough,” Munguia said. “Fair Trade labeling, point-of-sale information and stories about growers and farm workers truly empowers the consumer.”

The new winter squash items from Giumarra should be available through March. Like much of the company’s other fare, the organic squash is under the Nature’s Partner label. Some appear under growers’ private labels.

In July, one of Giumarra’s distributors received a survey of customers to gauge awareness and potential demand for Fair Trade fresh produce.

“A majority were not only aware but actively promoting produce alongside other Fair Trade-certified goods,” said Kellee Harris, Giumarra's western region business manager.

Organics grow at Giumarra

In the overall organic category, Giumarra expects a sharp increase in Mexico production.

“Organic acreage has increased markedly,” Munguia said. “Our division will see a 35% to 40% percent production increase this season.”

In mid-November, Munguia returned from a tour of mainland Mexico farming operations. Many crops were already in production, and others were on the verge of breaking.

“Quality and volume projections are excellent,” Munguia said. “We’ll be headed out to Baja California in the next couple of weeks to inspect our organic and conventional farms across the gulf. They are also very close to production.”

Transition to Guaymas

In mid-November, Giumarra was just about to finish up its Fair Trade-certified watermelon harvest in Hermosillo and transition south to ranches in Guaymas.

“We’ve made some major improvements to our packing facilities to handle our increased tonnage in both growing regions,” Munguia said.

“We’re just finishing up a new centralized water filtration and distribution system that will allow us to increase acreage and production with less water usage,” he added.

Giumarra has also expanded avocado distribution channels with its Mexican partners and increased capabilities for bagging and ripening, said Gary Caloroso, director of marketing for Giumarra Agricom and Giumarra Borquez.

“We expect to see an increased supply of organic Mexican avocados this season as a result of rising consumer demand for it here in the U.S.,” Caloroso said.