Recently having assumed the role of editor of The Packer, I thought a perfect question for the LinkedIn Fresh Produce Industry Group was this:

What is the most under-reported issue in the fresh produce industry?

The responses, not just limited to the U.S. market, have rolled in. Here are several: 

KP: We’re wasting 30% or so of our fresh products. That’s not sustainable from a financial or environmental perspective. Growers and retailers are throwing money in the trash.

RE: Getting more money into the farmers pocket.

TL: Prices! If farmers can’t make money they do not continue growing that produce. As this happens, supply will diminish and then the price will increase a lot! Need to find a happy medium!

MM: The digitization of the supplier/retailer relationship (text and email vs. phone and face to face meetings). Resulting in neither side knowing the other’s business.

JM: Our global competitiveness. As farming becomes more corporation driven our ability to compete with production costs in a global market will influence supply channels considerably and not necessarily in Australia’s favor.

PM: Many comments suggest farms and prices. My opinion is that the retail giants can not and will not sell produce with its natural ebb and flow cycles. Their retail is extraordinarily high and want to pay nothing. Consumers, farmers and the large retailers themselves would all do much better if they learned how to buy and sell produce once again. They must #educate their customers and employees ) #renovate ( displays and especially those ridiculous rack systems ) #agitate with new and improved pricing that is supply and demand based ) #stimulate customers with samples of delicious fruit and sell produce that eats as well as it looks. 

WR: I think you are right to the I think produce is still acting like it is still 1950. We need to move outside the box and come up with a new business model.

PP: The biggest challenge for the produce industry in Australia is attracting talented people. From farm to the shop floor, the produce industry, by and large, is not attracting the quality of people needed to help industry reach its potential.

EM: Imported produce presented as U.S. grown

SQ: Objective measurement of eating quality, taste & texture, to bring the consumer back to our product week after week.

TS: Lack of product knowledge in procurement and purchasing positions. The absolutely worst that I have ever seen

JS: Great tasting flavorful fruit drives consumption - an experience that motivates the next purchase when not featured. Much talk about flavor, delivery is greatly lacking!

PS: From my vantage point being in the collections industry for over 30 years it is the high number of outright crooked companies and wholesalers out there, coming up with every known scheme in the book to not pay for the beautiful product they received!! 

CC: What the industry needs to do to address food safety outbreaks.


TK: According to the group, the list of under-reported issues includes growers' profitability, industry talent, buyer-seller issues, food waste, food safety, PACA issues and even the failed merger of United Fresh and PMA. As The Packer continues to embrace the challenge of reflecting the realities the industry faces, this sounding board can be instructive. I hope more contribute to the list. We will be listening.