National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

I'm headed off to Chicago to interview wholesale and retail sources for coverage in The Packer. As I wait on the airport shuttle to Kansas City International Airport, I'll check on a quick review of fresh produce world headlines.

The USDA FAS has released a series of reports on fruit production worldwide, including:

Chilean fresh deciduous annual report:The USDA FAS reports that Chile's grape production is expected to be similar to last year's modest output.  Despite favorable growing conditions apparently favoring a bigger crop, the USDA says a severe drought continues to hurt table grape output in the Atacama (Copiapo), Coquimbo and Valparaiso regions.  Little enthusiasm for new grape plantings in Chile is attributed to increasing costs and falling prices, with insult added to injury caused by the high peso.

South Africa fresh deciduous annual report:  Likewise, the South African deciduous fruit industry is struggling with higher costs, the USDA reports. Even more, the agency said the industry is glum with a recent announcement from Maersk and SAFMarine that they will increase shipping costs up to 30% to keep up with the demand for containerized shipping. Even so, exports of grapes in 2012 are up over 15% from last year.

China's fresh deciduous annual report: The USDA reports that bilateral negotiations are seeking to solve the issue of import permit delays for U.S. apples. Meanwhile, Chinese apple exports are projected up and the agency reports that China is working on improving fruit quality.

Is sustainability a selling point in Europe?  The USDA's has a long treatment of sustainability in Europe in this report. In particular, the analysis looks at the "varying degrees" of the concept throughout the EU, with central and eastern EU consumer markets are less tuned in to sustainability issues.