Volume holds steady on Central American fruit, vegetable imports

12/14/2012 02:50:00 PM
Mike Hornick

With normal volumes and few weather issues for Central American and Caribbean crops through the first week of December, commerce was influencing the winter deal as much as nature.

A new partnership or facility here, a consolidation or port strike there, and the playing field shifted a bit.

Avocados

Homestead, Fla.-based Fresh King is extending availability of avocados after a September merger with Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic-based grower-shipper Agroindustria Ocoeña. Instead of stopping with the Florida deal in January, Fresh King will go from June through April.

“It’s not a seasonal crop anymore,” said Alvaro Perpuly, general manager. He expects to see October-to-April avocado production there rise from 1.2 million to 1.5 million bushels. Perpuly credits that to friendly weather and improved tree management.

Agroindustria Ocoeña offers a proprietary green-skin variety, the Carla. It obtained a Primus certification last year. Food safety standards had been a roadblock for Dominican Republic fruit.

“We’ve been doing business for about 10 years and this year we had the opportunity to merge,” Perpuly said. Both retain their established labels and brand names.

Melons

Michael Warren, president of Central American Produce Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., predicts a 5% rise in melon volumes out of Guatemala and Honduras. His company started shipping cantaloupes and honeydews in mid-November. Those go to May, and watermelons run January to April.

It’s a modest shift in volume. A bigger one is under way among players in the melon deal.

Plantation, Fla.-based Fresh Quest, which has downsized Honduras operations in favor of Guatemala, will have 15% less fruit overall than last year, according to Alan Guttmann, president.

Meanwhile, Pompano Beach-based Ayco Farms Inc. expects about a 30% volume increase.

Some competitors are also seeing increases, said Lou Kertesz Jr., category manager for melons.

“With the loss of production by Fresh Quest it’s probably the same amount coming in, just in different hands,” he said.

Fresh Quest planned to add Guatemala acreage for next year’s deal.

Papayas, pineapples

On red papayas out of Belize, Homestead-based Brooks Tropicals and Sunrise, Fla.-based Fresh Results LLC forecast volume increases of 25% to 30% over last year.

Weather damage earlier in 2012 tamed volumes into the start of winter, but demand for reds has driven more plantings year to year. Peak production is expected in March and April.


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