“Our fuel prices are up, but we feel like we have to be sensitive to that (the economy), and keep prices where product can be moved,” he said.
That said, shippers of Mexican produce will have a running start to their spring deals, with demand expected to be brisk on many items in February and March, because of the extensive freeze damage in Florida, Ciruli said.
Rick Burkett, salesman for Nogales-based Farmer’s Best International LLC, agreed that transportation costs would likely be higher for the spring deals.
“Diesel in Mexico has re-cently taken quite a jump,” Burkett said. “It’s definitely higher than last year.”
The recession may officially be over, but don’t tell that to shoppers, said Nick Rendon, division sales manager in the Nogales office of Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos.
Even when they’re shopping for fruits and vegetables, people are budget-minded, and that’s not likely to change in the spring of 2010, Rendon said.
The challenge facing produce shippers and marketers, he said, is to give them good bang for their buck.
“Consumers are concerned about the price of their produce,” Rendon said. “It’s impor-tant to offer them value.”
As was the case in 2009, the recession isn’t expected to put too much of a dent in demand this spring for Mexican mangoes sold by Farmer’s Best, Burkett said.
“I think last year was fairly depressed overall, but we were very successful when it came to mangoes,” he said. “People want to feed their families wholesome foods that are a value.”
It’s not just mangoes, Burkett said. Fresh produce in general is less likely to feel the ups and downs of changes in the economy.
“We’re a little more insulated,” he said. “It’s not like buying a new TV or car. There’s a different mindset when it comes to fruits and vegetables versus the whole economy.”
An increased focus on healthful eating also is keeping West Mexico shippers and others in the industry afloat during the economic downturn, Burkett said.