Importers greet winter fruit deal - The Packer

Importers greet winter fruit deal

12/16/2011 01:31:00 PM
Andy Nelson

As the memories of rainy fall weather receded, importers of Central American fruit looked forward to abundant quantities of high-volume fruit this winter.

Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla., ships its Caribbean Red papayas from Belize year-round, said Mary Ostlund, the company’s director of marketing.

Fruit ships overland through Texas or by boat to Florida, Ostlund said.

In January, Brooks plans to add Uniq fruit from Jamaica to its winter Central American/Caribbean fruit roster.

Because of favorable weather conditions in Belize and Jamaica, Ostlund expected similiar-sized weekly shipments as last season in the coming weeks for its Caribbean Reds and Uniqs.

“Volumes are expected to be normal for both this winter,” she said.

“Mother Nature has been kind to us this year. We can’t complain.”

Papaya shipments from Guatemala and Belize came to a screeching halt because of rainy weather for New Limeco LLC, Princeton, Fla., said Eddie Caram, general manager.

By December, however, shipments were beginning to “fall back into place,” Caram said.

New Limeco expects to bring in six to eight containers per week of Central American papayas this season, up from last year, Caram said.

“We’re growing more, and demand is higher,” he said.

New Limeco also has increased volumes on its El Salvadorean lime program, Caram said.

For the past five or six years, volumes have been “on and off,” he said.

This season, however, the company expects to bring in one or two containers every week on a consistent basis.

The quarantine of Mexican papayas because of salmonella fears this fall had a bigger effect on large papayas than smaller fruit, said Homero Levy de Barros, president of Plantation, Fla.-based HLB Tropical Food.

Markets for smaller papayas stayed relatively steady, Barros said, but some large fruit doubled in price.

“It was a big disruption in Mexico, which is responsible for more than 70% of papayas that come here,” he said.

By early December, though, higher volumes of big fruit from Belize and Guatemala were restoring order to markets, Levy de Barros said.

“They had gotten $28, now it’s back to $18,” he said. “With higher production, prices will come back to normal.”

Levy de Barros reported good quality on the papayas HLB was importing in December.

Tropical storms in Guatemala and Belize put a dent in lime supplies earlier in the season, but in December quality was good and markets strong, Levy de Barros said.

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