A complete line of soft-sorting equipment at North Bay’s 25,000-square-foot warehouse in Miami has room for 1,300 pallets and allows the company to divert product to processing if necessary.
Janice Honigberg, president of Sun Belle Inc., Washington, D.C., said it is also important to pack directly into the clamshell instead of packing on a line.
“This allows us to receive the firmest fruit without as much bruising as one would see from a line,” she said, adding that the company is targeting quality control at the field level.
Frank Ramos, president of The Perishable Specialist Inc., Doral, Fla., said how the product will be handled once it arrives in the U.S. should not be an afterthought, especially if it is being flown in and cannot be refrigerated en route.
“A lot of it has to do with the logistics that the importer has in place,” he said.
“Once it gets on the plane, it will be in ambient temperature until it arrives. That’s where we come in, having the trucks already spotted at the airlines. We have customs and FDA already cleared ahead of time, and being that Chile has a USDA preclearance, we are able to load the product off the plane as quickly as possible.”
Supply chain analysis, better postharvest handling and good weather are some of the factors suppliers identified as indicative that the deal will be markedly better this year.
“If they can have relatively dry weather, we’ll be fine,” said Phil Neary, director of operations and grower relations at Sunny Valley International Inc., Glassboro, N.J.
However, Neary explained if there is rain and unseasonable warmth during peak volumes, growers will have to use extra caution when handling, and employ soft-sorters to minimize the amount of low quality fruit that ships to market.
“I think it’s getting the fruit picked and cooled down as quickly as possible,” Barsi said.
“The majority of growers and exporters are making sure they have analyzed their supply chains and fruit once it is harvested, and that it is transported to the cooler to get the field heat out of it, and it is shipped in a timely manner.”
Flores said improved handling and additional precooling and packing facilities are coming on line this year.
“Up until a couple of years ago, the existing facilities were fine and great for coming in, but with the increase in fruit the last couple of years, a lot of people in the industry are playing catch-up,” he said.
Bobby Stokes, berry sales manager at Curry & Co. LLC, Brooks, Ore., compared Chile with Oregon’s rise to commercial blueberry production.
“Just like it took us decades in Oregon, they’re still working it out down there,” he said. “They are young in the deal comparatively, so they are getting stronger every year.”