Vegetable Transition Causing Major Gaps

Temperatures reaching the upper 90s have basically brought an end to the winter vegetable deals in the California and Arizona deserts, resulting in supply gaps and stronger markets with some commodities headed into the FOB stratosphere.

“Two weeks ago, you couldn’t give cauliflower away, now it’s hard to find it,” said Denny Donovan, sales manager for Fresh Kist Produce in Santa Maria, CA, noting that his sales sheet listed 12-size flower at just shy of $70 per carton on Monday, April 10. “It’s going to be a very interesting season. There are going to be major gaps almost across the board for the next 60 days.”

He ran down his list of items and said many different commodities from broccoli to the lettuces are in short supply and seeing rising prices: “Celery is cheap and so is cabbage, but everything else is tight.”

Donovan, who has been selling vegetables for 45 years, said this may be a new experience. “Usually you can look out two, three, four weeks and make a pretty good guess of what’s coming. Not this year. I have no idea.”

He said many fields had to be replanted and others are experiencing low yields and light weight product.  “I think we are going to be super short all the way through June. And I’m not sure what’s happening after that.”

Mark McBride, who has been patrolling the vegetable fields of the Salinas Valley for an equally long stint, is also experiencing a unique season. “It’s a bumpy transition to say the least,” he said on Tuesday, April 11. “Today is our (Coastline Family Farms in Salinas, CA) last day in the desert.”

He noted that cooler weather helped stretch the desert deal a couple of weeks beyond its traditional timetable, but that same cool weather combined with the rainy winter to delay Salinas Valley crops. “We are going to get started next week (week of April 17) in Salinas with some lettuce but not much else.”

McBride said most commodities are short but cauliflower and broccoli are very tight. “Cauliflower is in the $60s and a broccoli carton of crowns is at $50. Iceberg lettuce is $48 to $52 and it is strengthening Romaine and all the leaf items — red leaf, green leaf, butter lettuce. They are all doing well. We are definitely going to see very light volumes of many crops over the next few weeks.”

He echoed the sentiments of Donovan stating that the lettuce being cut is “light weight and small.”

McBride added that growers are typically very efficient timing the planting of many different fields to work like clockwork as the season goes on with one field ready to pop just as another finishes. “Now you can throw all the schedules out the window,” he said. “We are going to have a whole season that is going to wreak havoc.”

Though he has experienced the ups and downs and swings in supply many times before, the Coastline executive said it is just amazing how quickly the tide turns. “The demand in January, February and well into March was lackluster at best,” he reported. “Now demand exceeds supply across the board.”

Jason Lathos, manager of commodities at Church Brothers Farms in Salinas, said the short supplies currently being experienced were inevitable given all the rain, flooding and cold weather that hit the Salinas area this winter. He said of the five major core commodity groups – Iceberg lettuce, Romaine and the other leaf items, broccoli, cauliflower and celery — only celery is experiencing a down market, and that is starting to change.  He went down the list noting the per-carton FOB prices: cauliflower is at $60-70, broccoli is at $50 and going up, Iceberg is $50 to $55 and the other lettuces are all in the $30 to $35 range. “Celery is starting to show signs of tightening and I expect it (the FOB price) will start stair stepping up soon.”

Lathos said he has been reluctant to predict the future of the vegetable markets because there have been too many missing pieces. He said the supply-and-demand situation is simply formulaic with the price fluctuating on those two factors.  But because of all the rain and the uncertainty of how many acres were damaged and what would be re-planted, some of the variables that get plugged into the formula, so to speak, were missing.

But then demand increased, and Lathos said that uptick has caused a fairly severe reaction. “As soon as the Easter demand kicked in, supplies dropped off from the desert and we saw higher FOBs,” he said, noting the trend is moving quickly in that direction.

He added that there can also be a fear factor that plays into the equation. Lathos recalled that in late fall 2022 when the reverse transition was under way — Coastal California to the desert — supplies dipped with FOB markets climbing quickly beyond expectations, which didn’t create a smooth transition. Neither buyer nor seller ever wants to get caught on the wrong side of a spiraling market.

From The Produce News

Photo by Magda Ehlers


As spring reaches the Northern Hemisphere, the strawberry markets in various countries enter new phases too. In the Netherlands, the shift from Spanish to Dutch strawberries is happening with local supply opportunities arising. Germany is still importing mainly from Southern Europe, but the first German greenhouse strawberries have been picked, and good prices are expected. In France, competition from cheaper Moroccan and Spanish strawberries is putting pressure on local production. In Italy, cold temperatures are impacting the ripening of strawberries, and farmers worry that many varieties may produce less than their potential. Meanwhile, in China, strawberry exports are increasing, and new pink and white varieties have entered the market, although prices have dropped significantly compared to last year. In North America, limited supplies of strawberries are expected due to delays in California production caused by weather conditions, and pricing remains strong despite concerns over potential changes in consumer spending.

Netherlands: Retail makes switch to Dutch strawberries
The strawberry market is currently in a transition phase from Southern European to Dutch product. With the cold, and subsequently, warm weather, the quality of Spanish strawberries is declining and the market is really in a transition phase. Dutch strawberry production is currently picking up. This started with the varieties Sonsation and Malling and this week the everbearer Elsanta was added. The demand last week leading up to Easter was very good with prices of 35 euros for the 10×500 gram. Meanwhile, the price is dropping a little daily, but a Dutch fruit trader does not rule out a rebound if retail starts picking up the Dutch product well. “Better weather is predicted for next week and then you traditionally get demand first and volume second.”

Belgium: Belgian strawberry production set to kick off next week
Some Belgian and Dutch supply has been found here and there over the past few weeks, but the season, after a very difficult winter, will really take off next week. “It will be a bit of a wait this week, but next week we will see strawberry production shoot up in our area,” says a Belgian trader.  “As it has actually been a bit too cold for strawberry consumption, prices are at a maximum at the moment anyway. I hope that with the increasing volumes in the coming weeks, prices will remain stable.”

When production reaches full capacity, there does seem to be room in the market for local supply. “At the moment, there is actually almost no competition from Spanish strawberries. Moreover, they seem to be losing some quality at the moment. Last year the Belgian strawberries had to ripen too quickly, but, partly due to the hard work of the growers and the fact that the product has had time this year, the Belgian strawberries are very tasty this year.”

Germany: Good prices expected for greenhouse strawberries
Until the official start of the domestic harvest, German traders are importing their strawberries mainly from Southern Europe. Currently, Spanish fruits form the basis of the assortment, although not to the same extent as in previous years. Greek and Italian shipments followed in terms of volume. Dutch, Belgian and local greenhouse products completed the supplies, but were clearly more expensive than the competition from the south.

In week 11, the first German greenhouse strawberries of this year’s season could already be picked. The qualities of the early strawberries are good, but the volume is still low. “Due to the extremely cold temperatures in Spain, there will be rather little produce on the market, especially at the start of the season. That is why we are positive that we will be able to achieve good prices for our greenhouse products”, a local producer stressed.

France: Increased competition from Spanish strawberries
While some production areas such as Dordogne and Rhône-Alpes are entering the season, others such as Lot-et-Garonne, Brittany or the South-East are at the height of production for the Gariguette and Cléry varieties. “Strawberries are generally well consumed the week before Easter,” says an operator. Sunny days favour consumption. And on the production side, “there were no heat waves like last year, so there is a good spread of production”.  And if the post-Easter period is sometimes a cause for concern, for the moment the demand is staying strong.

But French strawberries are suffering from competition. More expensive than strawberries from Morocco or Spain, French strawberries are having a hard time finding a place on supermarket shelves. “We had to fight at the beginning of the season because the supermarkets were slow to open the French strawberry lines. Fortunately, we have been heard, which has improved the situation. Now, we have some concerns for this week because Spain will soon enter its peak production and send a lot of volumes to France.”

Italy: Cold temperatures slow ripening at peak of demand
The climatic trend recorded in recent weeks has been unfavourable for strawberry growers in southern Italy, as they are forced to deal with limited product availability, precisely at the time of greatest demand. In fact, the return of cold temperatures slowed down the ripening of the berries and therefore kept the prices on the pallets lively.

According to some farmers in the Basilicata region, the Easter festivities were characterized by a decidedly limited offer which had never occurred in past campaigns. The plants have undergone various stresses over the last few months, due to the climate which, since the planting period, has been fluctuating, with temperatures not in line with those typical of the season. After a mild and lasting autumn, from the end of January 2023 the temperature drops were frequent. Therefore it is assumed that, in the coming weeks, many varieties could produce less than their potential, even with the weather stabilising.

According to data from the GfK Consumer Panel, almost 17 million Italian families bought strawberries at least once in the last year ending in February 2023, equal to over 66%. The average quantity per purchasing act is slightly down: from 7.3 hectograms in the year ending in February 2021 to around 6.9 hectograms in the last twelve months.

Spain: Strawberry growers aim to recover kilos lost in production and retail in May
In the first part of the strawberry campaign in Huelva, producers have encountered various factors that, as announced two weeks ago the Association of Strawberry Producers and Exporters of Huelva, Freshuelva, had caused production to reach be up to 30% lower than that registered on the same date of the previous campaign. Currently, the decline stands at around 15%.

“We still have a few months of the campaign left, which we hope can even be extended to the month of May with a much improved climate like the one we have now that also affects the quality of our fruit. The month of May is going to be a very important month to recover part of the kilos lost in production and in retail”.

As they point out from Freshuelva, it is a decrease in production “that has been quite widespread, since the weather conditions have affected the entire Mediterranean basin, but that has not caused shortages in the markets.”

“Retailers must also be understanding in the face of specific situations that are beyond any forecast. We work very hard to retain our customers and to remedy any adverse situation that may arise, such as this drop in production that we have been experiencing since the start of the campaign.”

China: Strawberry exports continue to grow, albeit from a low base
China is one of the world’s leading producers of strawberries, with domestic production accounting for a significant share of global output. China’s strawberry production is concentrated in the eastern and southern parts of the country, with major production areas including Shandong, Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Fujian provinces. Strawberry cultivation in China is generally characterized by high yields, low prices, and a relatively short growing season. The planting area of strawberries in China is increasing year by year. In 2011, the planting area was around 80 thousand hectares, and it rose to 140 thousand hectares in 2021. Russia and Vietnam are its main export markets.

In recent years, new pink and white strawberries have made their debut on the market. Dandong, in the Northeast of China, is a centre for protected cultivation strawberry production. Data show that Dandong has a strawberry-growing area of approximately 6,700 hectares and produces up to 150,000 metric tons annually.

New varieties include the Mengzhiying and Angel 8, both white strawberry varieties, and the Fendai, a pink coloured strawberry. The Mengzhiying variety was developed by the Ningbo Academy of Agricultural Sciences in 2022. With their special appearance and delicate flavour, these strawberries are sold at higher prices than regular red strawberries online and in supermarkets across the country, including Tmall and

At the start of the season there was a price drop for these specialized strawberry varieties. The poor market response has greatly affected the selling price. For example, in March last year, the purchase price of Angel 8 white variety was close to RMB 30 per box (4.30 USD), but the purchase price during the same period this year has dropped to RMB 8-17 per box (2.20 USD).

North America: California strawberry delays limit volume
Strawberry supplies are really tight in North America at the moment.

“Florida is on a trend downward as it usually is this time of year,” said one shipper. The state got a late start to the season following Hurricane Ian this past September.

It’s expected Florida will continue shipping quality berries. “We only have our best Florida fields and varieties going strong going through April,” says the shipper. “We’ve strategically dropped sub-par fields and kept the best plots going, giving them extra care and attention. The hope is that we can continue to harvest up to or into May in Florida to make up some of the gap in supply.”

This is generally when California begins its sizeable production out of the state. “Unfortunately, they have been delayed significantly due to the flooding, rains and cold weather, so strawberry volume is down considerably. California is weeks behind,” said the shipper.

Volume will remain limited yet continue to increase week by week. “We are hopeful that supply coming from California stabilizes in early to mid-May,” adds the shipper.

Supplies of strawberries from Central Mexico to the US are also coming to the end of the season. “The industry has pushed central Mexico later than would normally be the case because of the storms in California,” says another shipper. The season from that region went four to six weeks later than it normally would have.

All in all, pricing remains strong on strawberries. While it hasn’t been seen yet, the concern also remains over consumers to potentially be more discerning with their budgets if the economy slows significantly.

Australia: Strawberry industry to focus on robot harvest varieties
The Australian strawberry industry is about to embark on a new project, with the launch of an initiative to develop varieties that can be easily harvested by robots. The $11.5M, four-year effort is being delivered through Hort Innovation and led by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland (DAFQ), and scientists will aim to meld together the flavour, colour and aroma traits Aussies love the most with premium strawberry varieties that feature single stemmed fruit, ideal for robotic picking.

It comes as recent data shows the horticulture workforce has decreased by 20 per cent over the past three years, which has resulted in 40 per cent of Australian growers adopting advanced machinery. A Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland principal plant breeder said the program will reduce the time needed to pick and pack strawberries, resulting in a more profitable outcome for growers. She explains: “It takes the same amount of time to pick a small strawberry as it does to pick a large one. This breeding program is focusing on delivering a consistent fruit size that is preferred by consumers on unbranched flower stems – meaning that the fruit can be picked faster – either by conventional methods or through automation.”

The Australian national strawberry industry has an estimated farm gate value of $417 million, according to Hort Innovation’s Australian Horticulture Statistics Handbook. For the year ending June 2022, there were 68,311 tonnes of strawberries produced, which was a 12 per cent decline from the previous year, however, the (planting) production area increased by nine per cent to 2,279 hectares.

From FreshPlaza

Salinas Valley Crop Damage Tops $500 Million

Preliminarily, Monterey County officials and agricultural experts have indicated that crop losses from the torrential rains that have hit the Salinas Valley this year could easily top $500 million.

Those numbers are just guesstimates with no expectation that a final figure will be available for several months. What seems to be certain, however, is that crop losses are significant and the vegetable market will soon be feeling the effects with much higher prices.

Dan Walker, a commodity manager with Salinas, CA-based Church Bros. Farms, said on Tuesday, March 21, “the vegetable market is still stagnant, but we see that changing within the next two to three weeks. The desert is starting to run out of product and when that happens the market will react.”

He said Church Bros. is scheduled to transition to the Salinas Valley in mid-April, with most other shippers following suit sometime during the first few weeks of April. Walker said he couldn’t hazard a guess as to how many acres have been impacted because the water hasn’t receded yet in so many places. He added that many fields will have to be replanted for food-safety reasons. “We will be dealing with this for the next three to four months,” he said. “I would guess that tens of thousands of acres have been affected.”

Norm Groot, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, said that growers of flooded fields must follow necessary food-safety protocols, which will cause a delay in replanting. Any crop on a field that is flooded has to be discarded.  “Once the water recedes, growers can begin the testing protocols that they have to pass before they can replant,” he said. “When flooding occurred in January, we witnessed that it typically took 30 to 60 days to get through those protocols.”

Groot said the number of acres underwater will certainly be much more than the 15,000 acres that were flooded in January. Salinas Valley has 220,000 acres of irrigated crops.

Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Juan Hidalgo didn’t dispute that the affected acreage could run into the tens of thousands. He told The Produce News that the damage is very significant, but no firm estimate had been made. “It is going to take us about a month to come up with a good number,” he said, adding that his office is in the process of surveying growers throughout the county.

“I can tell you that this is the second flooding event we’ve seen this year,” he said. “The first one was in January where the damage assessment was $330 million in direct impact and future losses. There was also about $10 million in infrastructure damages.”

Hidalgo said close to 16,000 acres were impacted by flooding. “Given what we have seen from the latest storms (in early March), it appears that the damage will play out in a similar fashion with even more extensive flooding.”

He added that there are still several areas in Monterey County where the water has not receded. “We are just looking at lakes,” he said. “We don’t know if they were planted in crops or not.”

Hidalgo said that is why the entire grower community needs to be surveyed, which is a time-consuming effort. “That could take several months,” he added.

The ag commissioner said the hardest hit areas were farms in close proximity to the Salinas River as well as the entirety of North Monterey County’s Pajaro Valley and the town of Pajaro, which was flooded. “The Salinas River runs 60 to 70 miles down the valley,” he said. “Any farm along that river was in jeopardy. And a levee broke on the Pajaro River, which flooded lots of acres and that small community, unfortunately.”

He said the levee has been fixed, which has at least put an end to the flow of water.

On March 17, government officials joined together with ag community members to discuss the flood issues. According to a newsletter from the Salinas-based Grower-Shipper Association, topics of conversation included flood impacts and regulatory concerns that will affect berm repairs and Salinas River channel improvements.  

The newsletter noted that preliminary estimates indicate that about 12.5 percent of the overall farm gate crop value of $4 billion for Monterey County could be lost. “As for the potential economic effect on the region, covering wages, and a hit to the services sector, a 12.5 percent mark equates to a $1.5 billion impact (out of a $12 billion economic contribution by the agricultural sector). Combined, the effects could reach $2 billion ($500 million crop loss plus $1.5 billion economic impact),” the newsletter reported.

From The Produce News

How Record Rainfall Is Impacting California’s Strawberries

Watch and wait. That’s where California strawberry growers are at following late last week’s record rainfalls and subsequent flooding in the Salinas-Watsonville region.

Now, growers are still waiting for the waters to recede before potential damage can be assessed. “It’s too early to tell the number of acres that have been affected. Roughly 20 percent of the farms in the Pajaro River and the Salinas River areas were affected, though to what extent we don’t know,” says Jeff Cardinale with the California Strawberry Commission.

Anecdotally, Steve Johnston of G.W. Palmer & Co. says one of the largest growers in Salinas Watsonville suggested there could be 3,000 acres of strawberries affected by rain. “Affected, meaning there have been water difficulties–it’s not necessarily that the acreage is lost,” he says.

Various scenarios
At the Commission, Cardinale notes that while it’s speculative at this point, one of four scenarios could emerge, starting with complete erosion when the waters recede, where growers are left with muddy lakes if roads are destroyed. Or the plants could be covered in sediment from the flood waters. “We don’t know about the viability of those plants. Some may be covered, all may be covered, but that’s another unknown,” he says.

When those waters recede, growers could possibly see viable plants, and then decisions would be made about the fruit according to food safety guidelines. “Chances are they’re going to be pulled from the plants, but we’re not sure,” Cardinale says.

The fourth scenario? Stronger strawberry plants, thanks to the soil and water mix, could create a more beneficial soil for the plants.

At Well Pict, Jim Grabowski says growers are seeing a number of things from the rain right now. “Some fields are completely underwater and inaccessible. Other fields have standing water in the furrows alongside the strawberry beds. People don’t know what the plants will be like when the waters recede from flooded fields as well as not knowing how the plants will react on the fields where there was water in the furrows,” he says.

However, the weekend saw more rain, and more is expected early this week.  

Other producing regions
Cardinale says this doesn’t mean a stop to strawberry production in California right now. “Roughly 80 percent of the farms in this area were not affected. Then you have those fields that were partially affected. There definitely will be strawberries coming from this region, but the amount is just unknown,” he says, noting another possibility may be production beyond estimates from farms in the region that were not affected.   

At the same time, Oxnard and Santa Maria, California have been shipping berries for several weeks and will soon be shipping at their three-year average. “While the Watsonville crop will probably be delayed a bit, Oxnard is trying their best to cover the strawberry market, but they themselves are having weather issues. Cool and wet days are slowing ripening which results in a slightly reduced production level,” says Grabowski.

However, Cardinale says retailers and consumers won’t see any difference in the store because most of the berries were coming from Santa Maria and Oxnard. “The critical time will be later on in April-June when the berries that were supposed to come from Salinas-Watsonville are starting to hit the market.”

What’s ahead
“The strawberry deal is taking a bit of a hit now. We are slightly down, but in no way are we out, and we’ll be back as soon as we can get this weather mess straightened out,” says Grabowski.

There is also a small bright spot, at least for strawberry growers. “The vegetable acreage here is unfortunately really affected, and they won’t be able to plant like normal,” says Johnston. “So when it comes time to normally harvest those crops, the people who would have been harvesting won’t have anything to do, so the good news for strawberry growers is they won’t have problems with labor this year.”  

From Fresh Plaza

Photos from California Strawberry Commission

Chilean Fresh Fruit Exports Up To February Increased By 17.3% In Volume

Cherries account for 68% of the total value of fresh fruit exports in the first two months of 2023

In the first two months of 2023, Chile exported 738 thousand tons of fruits worth 2,547 million FOB dollars, i.e. 14.3% more volume and 7.3% more value than in the same period of the previous year, according to the latest ODEPA Fruit report.

Fresh fruit exports amounted to 634,800 tons, equivalent to 2,261 million FOB dollars, i.e. 88.7% of the total value. Fresh fruit exports increased by 17.3% in volume and 4.6% in value over the same period of the previous year.

Fresh fruit exports were led by cherry exports, which accounted for 68% of all fresh fruit exports in the period, with 300,230 tons worth 1,543 million FOB dollars, i.e. 8% more volume and 5% more value than in the same period of the previous year. China was the main destination, accounting for 89% of the value of Chile’s cherry exports.

The blueberry was the country’s second most important fresh fruit export. Chile exported 67,600 tons of blueberries for $314 million FOB (accounting for 14% of the total value of fresh fruit exported). Blueberry exports decreased by 7.5% in volume and increased by 7.5% in value over the same period of the previous year. The main destinations for Chilean blueberries were the USA (47%) and the Netherlands (23%).

Table grapes ranked third with 108,890 thousand tons and 166.58 million FOB dollars, i.e 21.5% less volume and 20.4% less value than in the same period of the previous year. The main destination for Chile’s table grapes in this period was the US (69%).

From Fresh Plaza

Supply Gaps Imminent For California Spring Vegetables Following Record Rains

Gaps are on their way. That’s the conclusion following California’s continued rains and their effect on the spring row vegetable crops.

“There have been short-term challenges such as getting products in and out of the field because it’s so wet. The bigger challenges will be in the next month or two when we transition back from Yuma to the Coast. Then we’ll run into problems from Orange County to the Salinas Valley as far as having missed plantings because the fields have been too wet to get in to work the ground,” says Russ Widerburg of Valley Produce based in Camarillo. “We could see some planting gaps, mainly in Oxnard, Santa Maria and the Salinas Valley.”  

Indeed, Mark McBride of Coastline Family Farms expects to finish the desert deal between April 10-15th and anticipates starting in Salinas April 15-20, adding that the current weather in the desert is ideal for rapid growth and maturity, and supply is outpacing demand. “We are doing whatever we can to stretch our desert acreage later and everything we can to try to bring our Salinas acreage in sooner. The next several weeks will be challenging,” he says. “In general, Salinas start dates have been pushed back due to the cool, wet weather pattern, and most companies are expecting production gaps during the transition back north. Weather in both areas over the next few weeks will either minimize or accentuate these production gaps.”

The effect of multiple storms
Those gaps are also not necessarily caused solely by the recent storm. “There’ve been times where they haven’t been able to get in and work the ground for a week or two at a time because we’ve had multiple storms come through,” Widerburg says. In terms of products that could see gaps, this includes a variety of California row vegetable crops, including lettuces, cabbages, celery, and more.

This could mean that some stronger markets for California row crops are impending. “It’s been a crazy fall and winter with some extraordinarily high pricing. Once the desert caught hold and got their footing, there was pretty good volume, and some of the markets came back down,” says Widerburg. “The speculation now is going into the next two to three weeks. A lot of the markets could pop back up. Supplies will be limited, and demand will be good, so it should create some higher markets.”

That said, the California agriculture industry remains ultimately thankful for the ample rain. “It’s a blessing but also a short-term curse. We need water because we’ve been under drought conditions for the last few years,” he says. “Everything is green, and the lakes, reservoirs, water tables, and wells have all filled back up. We could still use more rain, and we have more rain coming.”

From Fresh Plaza


The global avocado markets are seeing various developments, as large volumes of the fruit are expected to arrive in the Netherlands from countries such as Peru, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Colombia. The quality of Kenyan avocados has significantly improved, surpassing South Africa in terms of volume. In the UK, avocado purchases remain stable despite a cost-of-living crisis, with arrivals from Peru and South Africa increasing after the end of the season for supply from Spain, Israel, and Chile. France is experiencing a supply deficit, resulting in higher avocado prices, while Italy faces skyrocketing prices due to an insufficient supply of Hass avocados. In South Africa, avocado prices have decreased due to an oversupply of the fruit on the market. However, European prices are still good due to Peru’s logistical problems and floods affecting their shipments. Avocado consumption in China is booming, and the North American market is expected to remain ample throughout the year, with Mexico fully focused on the US market.

Netherlands: large volumes of avocados forthcoming
“In the avocado market, the outlook is less than favourable for the coming months,” states a Dutch importer.” With expected supply from South Africa, Peru, Kenya, Tanzania and Colombia, hefty volumes are coming this way. Personally, I expect a lot from Kenyan avocados in the coming years. They have been somewhat the black sheep among avocado countries in the past, but due to strict government controls, the quality has improved considerably and they have now passed South Africa in terms of volume.”

Belgium: Avocado undiminished in popularity
Peruvian avocado supply has to bring some stability back to the market, explains a Belgian importer. “Due to disappointing harvests in Spain and Morocco, the market urgently needed Peruvian supply to meet demand. After all, these are important volumes that are coming in. We feared for a while that here too volumes would be somewhat disappointing due to the unrest in the country, but fortunately this remained relatively limited.”

On the demand side, avocado remains as popular as ever. “So around the festive season, it was actually a bit disappointing and because of inflation seemed to opt more often for the cheaper options, but now that we are heading towards spring we see it disappearing more in the shopping basket again. Nonetheless, prices remain fairly high due to somewhat limited supply. We will have to wait and see how this will develop in the time to come as some more origin countries drop out, but African supply will, I expect, absorb this.”

Germany: Varied picture on German avocado market
In recent months, the market has been very tense, with different qualities and tight availabilities.

The Moroccan season was characterized by good qualities and sizes, whilst Spanish avocados were very difficult to ripen this year, but the availability was satisfying.

Currently the campaign from Peru is starting with very good qualities, as expected. How the export volumes for European markets will develop is still unclear.

Goods from other overseas avocado locations were difficult to handle and ripen this year, due to sprouting and sizing problems.

UK: Avocado purchases remain stable despite cost-of-living crisis
The supply of avocados from Spain, Israel and Chile into the UK market are in the later stages of the season and arrivals from Peru and South Africa are now starting to increase.

The volumes from Spain were smaller this season, as was the fruit size. There was 30-40% less from Spain. This was caused by a bumper harvest and a late finish the previous season, leading to late flowering and volumes were also hampered by drought and water restrictions in the summer months. A mix of origins kept the retail demand supplied.

Avocados from the early South African producers are starting to arrive in the UK as are those from Peru. Peruvian growers have had to contend with a lot so far this year: unrest leading to riots, roadblocks etc. and last week they were hit by cyclone Yaku which brought heavy rain causing flooding and landslides and other damage to infrastructure. South Africa has also had its problems with cyclone Freddy causing heavy rain in the growing regions.

Peru will recover from this disruption and volumes are expected to be up this season, mainly due to new plantings. The extra volumes will go to different markets around the world with around 7% more expected to go to Europe. South Africa have estimated 18 million 4kg export cartons this season.

Figures from Kantar Worldpanel show that in the 12 weeks ending 19 February this year the retail value of avocados grew by 6.6% in the UK. Ripened avocados remained resilient with some of the increase most likely down to price inflation.

The cost-of-living crisis does not seem to have affected demand in the UK, despite avocados being seen as a luxury item, sales volumes have remained consistent.

France: Deficit pushes avocado prices up
At the crossroads of the hemispheres, the campaign of avocados of Mediterranean origin is coming to an end. A campaign that in a context of deficit production, will have been relatively well oriented in terms of price and sales flow. Indeed, all winter productions have been in deficit this season, except for Colombia and Mexico, which have not been able to fill the production gap in Spain and Israel.

Supply continues to decline with the arrival of the last Mediterranean fruit of the season. The French market is at the end of the Mediterranean origins and Peru is taking over with again this year. With very large volumes expected to arrive mainly from the beginning of May to the end of August (between week 19 and 35). A total production of 70,000 tons more than last year is expected, as well as an export to Europe of 22,000 tons more (7%). But as the American market is likely to be complicated this year due to a large production in Mexico, this figure is likely to be revised upwards. In the meantime, and in this context of a supply deficit, the market promises to be good and rising over the next two/three weeks.

But past this transitional period, there is still a risk for a market that remains high in the face of an early season supply build-up. It is because of a supply deficit that the market has risen, not because consumption has increased. The risk is that the prices remain high while we arrive at the beginning of the Peruvian season with volumes that intensify. In this case, the product is unattractive to the consumer: it is expensive and representative of an early season fruit that has not reached its optimal maturity. On the other hand, an attractive market also attracts the interest of some exporters regardless of the quality of their products. This leads to a slowdown in consumption. And in this case, there is a risk that the market will collapse.

Faced with an increase in production volumes from Peru, but also from Kenya, Colombia and South Africa, the success of the coming season will depend on consumption. Knowing that Peru made a very bad season last year, this year, the exporters bet on the fact that the distributors will animate or promote the product all summer. However, the question is likely to be recurrent in a context where the world production does not cease to increase from year to year, facing a market polarized between the United States and Europe.

Italy: Insufficient supply of Hass and skyrocketing prices
From week 11 to week 12, the trade of avocados has changed, according to a wholesaler in Northern Italy. “For the Hass variety, the situation has worsened: the product handled is even more limited and prices are skyrocketing. Peruvian goods are coming on and off and are practically already sold out even before their arrival. From Morocco, volumes are minimal, since as for the Israeli origin, the season is approaching its end. Spain also has limited volumes of the Lamb Hass variety and prices are high. The Spanish product has a purchase price of up to €16.00.”

“Regarding the greenskin avocado, we can say that from next week onwards more volumes are expected and purchase prices may fall further. The current level of the Fuerte variety is €10.50-11.00 compared to the much higher level of last week. From mid-April, volumes from Kenya and South Africa are expected.”

Spain: Campaign marked by small sizes and high prices
The Spanish avocado season is ending in the south, while it is starting in the Region of Valencia, a later area with more limited quantities, although this year it is gaining relevance. The season will end earlier this year due to the significant drop in the production. The abundance of small sizes and the high prices at origin due to the limited supply have marked the campaign. Given the lower Spanish supply, there has been more room for avocados from Colombia and Israel. There has been enough domestic fruit to cover the programs of those customers who always prefer it, and there has been no additional fruit for sale on the open market.

Spain has just started market the first avocados from Peru, whose harvest is estimated to have increased by 10-15% compared to last year. In the last few months, Spanish avocado prices have been quite high, so the demand has slowed down. Exporters expect, therefore, a smooth transition to the Peruvian season, hoping that, as temperatures rise, consumption will pick up again in the run-up to Easter.

There have been some logistical problems with the shipments from Peru due to the heavy rains, but hopefully those issues will be resolved soon, and once the access roads to the ports can be used again, there will be no overlap between early and mid-season plantings, bearing in mind that a higher production is expected this year.

Israel: Israeli avocado production up to 42% lower compared to last year
As Israel’s 2022-2023 avocado season has about four weeks left before it ends, there has been around a 42% decrease with an estimated 70 000 tons up to now, compared to over 100 000 tons at the same time last year. A leading exporter commented that it is a challenging season, as they did not have enough fruit to supply all their clients demands. In some parts of the season the sizing was also a bit smaller than average. This was caused by colder weather during flowering in the spring leading up to the current season. Producers and exporters in Israel are at least relieved that the weaker Shekel against the dollar and euro made up for the lower volumes.

South Africa: Tough season for South African avocados
Domestic avocado prices are “horrible”, says a trader, who notes that the recent national shutdown and public holidays have reduced footfall on the market. The first greenskinned avocados were exported in week 11, as were the first Hass.

There are 60,000 4kg cartons on the Johannesburg market at the moment, “thousands and thousands of bags and boxes,” says a trader. For Hass, 15kg bags prices range between R80 (4 euros) and R100 (5 euros), a box of Hass is R60 (3 euros) to R80 (4 euros). Fuerte prices traditionally are higher in South Africa: a 15kg bag costs around R100 (5 euros).

The average price per kg has decreased to R11 (0.55 euro)/kg and R14.78 (0.74 euro) for class 1 avocados, as supply currently exceeds demand on the market. There were problems with immature early Hass varieties as a result of the substantial rains. Fruit is taking longer to reach maturity but it is hoped that within the coming weeks it should pick up.

There are “too many” avocado bags on the markets, the trader remarks, perhaps because of carton costs. “Carton costs are enormous,” says an exporter. “There’s a better demand for jumble 10kg boxes of Hass than for bags.” Jumble boxes are expensive to pack and result in barely breakeven prices, counters a packhouse manager.

There is a premium on larger fruit, but there are a lot of small counts, as is the case in other countries.

Prices in Europe still sound very good, notes an exporter, with Peru’s logistical problems and floods hampering their shipments. Within the next week large arrivals are expected and the outlook is favourable at this stage, says an exporter.

Greenskin avocados are going to, inter alia, Russia but because insurers won’t cover Russian shipments since the war, some exporters are staying away from Russia. Others go to mostly Eastern Europe.

Peru’s challenges could create more space for South Africa in the early season.

China: Avocado consumption is blossoming
China’s avocado consumption is blossoming. The country has been importing increasing amounts of avocados in recent years, particularly from Mexico, New Zealand, Chile and Peru, to meet the growing demand for the fruit in the Chinese market. Kenyan and Tanzanian avocados have recently both received market access in China. According to China’s Department of African Affairs, Kenya plans to supply the Chinese market with a total of 20,000 metric tons of avocados in 2023. If it manages to complete the feat, Kenya would take a considerable position on the market. It’s first shipment of the season arrived in the beginning of March. Kenya, Tanzania and in, the future South Africa, are perfectly positioned to bridge current gaps in avocado supplies to China from existing markets.

China is growing domestic avocados. Although avocados are not native to China, the country has been working to develop its own avocado industry in recent years. Some Chinese provinces, such as Yunnan and Guangxi, have been actively promoting avocado cultivation and production. Projects are also ongoing in Guangdong, Yunnan, Sichuan and Fujian. “Currently, the domestic avocado production season is from mid-October to the end of March. Now we have developed early varieties which will be launched earlier in the future,” an avocado grower from Yunnan comments: “At present, avocado cultivation is on the rise in Yunnan, and more and more companies are starting to plant. Internationally, avocado planting is accused of requiring a lot of water and damaging the environment. But Yunnan has abundant rainfall, and even if the rainfall is insufficient, the nearby rivers can provide water. The fallen leaves of avocados are also beneficial to the environment. Therefore, planting avocados in Yunnan is good for the environment.”

North America: Ample supplies of avocado
Avocado volumes in North America are ample currently, compared to this time last year and are expected to stay that way through the end of the year. This is the result of production in different countries of origin coming together. Mexico, California, Peru, and Colombia are expected to have good supplies. Currently, the US market is dominated by Mexico’s peak-forming fruit. Within Mexico, the state of Jalisco was granted access to the US market last year and every quarter, more orchards get certified to ship to the US market. “As a result, Jalisco is expected to ship 25 to 30 percent more avocado volume to the US this year compared to 2022,” says a shipper.

Soon, production from Colombia and the Dominican Republic will also contribute to US supplies. California’s crop is delayed for now following the state’s recent rains. “Increased production from California is anticipated when the rain subsides, ramping up to ramp up to 6-8 million lbs. weekly by the end of April,” another grower-shipper says. Additionally, the ample availability of Mexican fruit contributes to California’s delayed market entry.

Colombian avocado production will start up again in May and avocados will be shipped to North America every week until the end of the calendar year.

Altogether, ample supplies should lead to plentiful promotional opportunities, particularly on 48-ct. and larger sizes. Pricing is about 30-40 percent lower than last year, though it may move up in April-May when good quality fruit comes on from both California and Mexico. 

Mexico: Exports fully focused on US market
Mexico is now in full avocado season in its main growing areas, especially Michoacan, which represents more than 90% of the total Mexican production. At the moment, the exports are fully focused on the US market, the biggest destination for Mexican avocados where around 24,000 tones are being sent weekly. Peru started its season some weeks ago but it will be in April when the volumes start representing a noticeable competition for the Mexican exporters in the US. Last year, Peru sent bigger volumes to the US market because the European market wasn’t favourable. It’s expected then that Peruvian exporters will aim more for the US market this year as well. The US economy is being damaged by inflation, but according to a Mexican exporter, avocado demand isn’t affected due to the relatively low prices that kept the consumption high. There was some uncertainty after the Super Bowl, where the demand was exaggeratedly high, but it has stayed at good levels so far.

Guatemala: Access to US market in the works
Guatemala ended their avocado export season with good demand and sales across Europe and the United Kingdom earlier this month. Guatemalan avocado exports are focused on Europe and Central America because the country still doesn’t have market access for avocados to the much closer US market. Guatemala´s Ministry of Agriculture and the USDA are working on the protocol for Guatemalan avocados to eventually have access into the US market in about a year or two’s time one producer commented. The country has under 6,000 hectares of avocado trees planted with many between 1,200 to 2,000 meters above sea level.

Colombia: Colombian avocado industry in rapid development
Colombia is busy finishing the main season of avocado production and exports in March. While it is an all year-round supplier, from April to September is the secondary season where they have slightly lower Hass avocado volumes available compared to peak months of October to March. The Colombian avocado industry is developing rapidly as they capitalise on access to the US market. To date, they have more than 300 Colombian orchards that are certified to ship to the US from 17 growing regions. They have easy access to ports on both the Atlantic and Pacific, which provides speed of delivery and fresh product to the East and West Coasts of the US.

Australia: Australian avocados gain market access to India
The Australian avocado season has moved onto the Shepard variety, for the months of February to May, which is the dominant variety for this time of the year, despite making up just 20 per cent of production. According to the recently released Horticulture Statistics Handbook, by Hort Innovation, there was a 26 per cent decline in the value of production (to $363.8m), despite a 56 per cent in volume (up to 122,197t) for the year ending June 2022. Export volumes were significantly up to 11,611 tonnes from 3,155 tonnes the previous year, and export value was also up from $22million to $52million.

Australian Hass avocados have also just received access to the Indian market two weeks ago, though final approval is subject to the success of ten trial shipments. One industry representative considers Australia’s market access to India to be a “game changer” for the industry. He says: “We acknowledge that final approval of the protocol will be dependent on 10 successful trial shipments, and we are very confident we can achieve that. The Australian Government has worked very hard and closely with the industry to achieve a commercially viable and workable protocol that all Australian Hass avocado growers will be able to use. We believe there are great opportunities for Australian avocados in India and it is a market with enormous growth potential.” The Australian Government’s Hass avocado market access agreement with India is underpinned by a $3M investment into research to support the export of the fruit.

This was seen as a “game changer” for exporters. “We believe there are great opportunities for Australian avocados in India and it is a market with enormous growth potential.”

“India is a fast-growing market for avocados and is just beginning its love affair with avocados, so we are thrilled to bring our premium quality Hass avocados to Indian consumers. This new market access is a great opportunity for us to expand our export business and strengthen our relationship with Indian consumers, and we look forward to building a long-lasting relationship with our Indian customers,” said one exporter.

Meanwhile, New Zealand is preparing to host the 10th World Avocado Congress in Auckland, New Zealand from 2-5 April 2023, including a three-day academic programme with international keynote speakers with regional field days. In the 2021-22 year, 50,837 tonnes of avocados were produced from a total of 4,350 hectares of avocado trees – and 3,914,000 trays were exported throughout that year. But it hasn’t been smooth sailing for avocado growers in New Zealand, with flooding in areas of the North Island in January, followed by Cyclone Gabrielle that caused damage to hundreds of hectares of horticulture crops, including avocados, with trees and orchards suffering extensive damage.

From Fresh Plaza

California Strawberry Commission Shares Update On Devastation From River Flooding

“For the farms that were flooded, this catastrophe hit at the worst possible time. Farmers had borrowed money to prepare the fields and were weeks away from beginning to harvest,” California Strawberry Commission President Rick Tomlinson said in a statement.

California Strawberry Commission President Rick Tomlinson has issued a statement about recent flooding in areas around the Pajaro and Salinas Rivers. 

The commission represents over 300 strawberry farmers, shippers and processors in the Golden State. In response to the extreme weather events, Tomlinson made the following comments in a statement:

Flood damaged strawberry acreage

This week’s flooding events along the Pajaro and Salinas Rivers have been devastating for those communities. Preliminary assessments estimate hundreds of millions in losses and thousands of people displaced in the town of Pajaro. The entire California strawberry industry would like to thank the first responders, aid organizations and volunteers who have helped begin the long recovery process.

We are thankful that the Pajaro River levee breach is being repaired. Stopping the river from flowing into the community is the first priority. This is a good start toward a safer place to live, raise a family, and work.

 The foreseeable future will be challenging. Families will work to restore their homes, their jobs, and many other aspects of their lives. 

Farms face a massive cleanup. As soon as the cleanup is complete, farmers will begin the process of preparing the fields and starting over.

For the farms that were flooded, this catastrophe hit at the worst possible time. Farmers had borrowed money to prepare the fields and were weeks away from beginning to harvest. Disaster relief and emergency financial assistance will be critical for both the residential community and the farming operations.

 California strawberry operations, most of which are multi-generational and family-owned, will remain vital to the damaged areas during the recovery and well beyond.

 California’s 400 family strawberry operations create 70,000 jobs in the state and invest 97 cents of every dollar back into the community. That commitment will only grow as the damaged area recovers. Despite the challenges, there will be increased shipments of California strawberries from Oxnard and Santa Maria to stores across the country to keep up with high demand.

Times are tough, but the town of Pajaro, the surrounding communities and the strawberry farming families are more resilient than ever, and we will work together to recover.

Flood damage

From The Packer

Photos courtesy California Strawberry Commission

Port Congestion Returning To Pre-Covid Normal In Southern California

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Tuesday reported no ships waiting offshore, according to Hellenic Shipping News. The outlet reported that this is the first time since October 2020 that the queue goes to zero.

“The container-ship backup for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has ended,” declared Kip Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, in a statement to the media. “It is time to move into a different phase of operations.”

However, while Southern California ports appear to be going back to normal, the rest of North America continues to face traffic jams in main routes.

The total queue reached a high of around 150 container ships in early 2021, with most waiting vessels off West Coast ports, primarily Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The overall count declined through the spring as the Southern California backlog eased. Then queues began to build off East and Gulf Coast ports as shippers directed more cargo away from the West Coast, according to Hellenic Shipping News.

On a lighter note, East and Gulf Coast congestion has gradually eased over recent months. New York, New Jersey and Houston have significantly reduced ship backlogs.

As of Nov. 23, the largest East Coast backlog was off Savannah, Georgia, with 28 vessels waiting. There were 11 ships off the coast of Virginia, one off New York/New Jersey and one off Freeport, Bahamas.

From FreshFruitPortal

Atmospheric River Storms Cause Further Flood Threats In California

A new atmospheric river storm is expected to bring more flooding throughout the coast of California and the Central Valley, with further risk of overtopping creeks, rivers, and streams. This comes just days after another storm caused a levee rupture in the Pajaro River, flooding an entire town.

In Monterrey county, more than 8,500 residents were evacuated, including thousands of Latino farmworkers in a community known for its strawberry crops, after the Pajaro River swelled with runoff from last week’s storm. 

Flood fighters are joining efforts to plug the levee breach hoping to prevent as much damage as possible from this week’s atmospheric river. 

Governor Gavin Newsom has already extended a storm-related state of emergency to 40 counties, from the Bay Area in the north of the state, down to the Central Valley, Santa Barbara, and Ventura, as well as inland counties. 

Even though experts anticipate less rain than last week, snowmelt at low elevations over already saturated soil poses a greater threat of flooding and mudslides.

In total, over 27,000 people have been put under evacuation orders as this most recent storm hits the state. 

Salinas Valley

A couple of inches of extra rain in the Salinas Valley on the night of March 13-14 would have created much additional flooding on the region’s vegetable fields. But the quarter-inch received was not an issue as long as no more rain is received in the next 24 hours. 

Chris Reade, vice president of the Salinas-based sales and marketing agency, Produce West, told FreshFruitPortal on March 14 that the Salinas River had dropped two feet in 24 hours. This winter’s rains in Salinas have brought the greatest flooding since 1998.

Given the historically-large snowpack accumulated in California mountains, “it sounds like we’re over the drought crisis. We’re 150 times better off than we were six months ago.”

While the flooding has certainly damaged fields this winter, Reade acknowledges that growers had prayed for rain. They got it.

Now the growers hope for a mild spring to gently melt the snowpack. If April brings temperatures of 85 or 90 degrees, melted snow will flood Salinas Valley rivers.

Growers and experts in the region are concerned as they wait to see what will be the effects of this weather front on production volumes for this season in a variety of crops including blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and grapes among others.

From FreshFruitPortal

Market Minute: Western Weather To Affect Salinas Valley Transition

Weather has been a nasty drawback for crops in some California farming areas. The snowpack alone in the central and southern Nevada mountains is double the normal amount for the year. There is so much accumulated snow that it has caused power failures throughout California mountain neighborhoods, collapsed building roofs, stranded vehicles and closed roads.

We talked to some Salinas, CA, growers and shippers about the status of product and were given some vital information in looking ahead.

The middle of March through the first part of April will be challenging on many items. The early rains prevented plantings from getting in on time and will affect the size, weight and condition of the product at harvesting.

Broccoli and cauliflower will have delayed starts in the Salinas Valley because of the extreme cold temperatures in February.

There will be some gaps but our industry is usually good at filling in those holes. We should have some movement in Salinas once Florida is finished with their vegetable season. This may put some pressure on the procurement side to local product with reasonable costs.

Celery should also be tight through the springtime, especially after Florida is done with that deal.

Oxnard received a lot of rain and many growers missed plantings during the early part of the farming season. Fortunately there is a Huron deal for Iceberg lettuce. This should really help the steady production of Iceberg through the transition period from the desert to the Salinas Valley. There are very few shipping from Huron this spring. Many won’t make the jump from the desert to Salinas or Santa Maria without gaps.

It is advised to keep pace with the transition of product this spring with your suppliers in order that you maintain product for your shoppers on a steady basis.

From The Produce News

According To The Latest Estimate, Chilean Grape Exports Will Decrease By 13.2% This Season

As a result of the lower volume of table grapes available in the central area of the country, the Table Grape Committee of the Association of Fruit Exporters of Chile AG (ASOEX) decided to carry out a sixth forecast of the season. According to this new forecast, the country will export 64,518,065 standard boxes of 8.2 kilos, i.e. 13.2% less than in the previous season and 4% less than estimated in the fifth forecast made less than a month ago.

The new forecast indicates that, despite the fall, Chile will maintain its focus on new varieties, as they will account for 54% of the product exported, stated Ivan Marambio, the president of ASOEX. This new estimate projects that 34,788,400 boxes will be of new table grape varieties; 18,591,491 boxes of traditional varieties, and 11,138,173 boxes of Red Globe grapes.

According to Ignacio Caballero, marketing director of ASOEX and Coordinator of the Table Grape Committee, the decrease in volumes is due to a decrease in the central region of Chile, mainly due to climate issues. “North America and Asia are the main markets for Chilean grapes, concentrating around 80% of all shipments. We hope that with this new estimate, we can reduce the pressure on the US market and that there is a greater diversification to other markets, especially considering the significant late volume of grapes that Peru is sending to this destination,” he stated.

According to the forecast, North America will receive 35,919,879 boxes of table grapes, Asia will receive 13,838,353 boxes, and Europe will receive 9,165,309 boxes. Shipments are expected to peak from week 7 to week 12 this season.

Exports to date
According to the latest market report of the Table Grape Committee of ASOEX, Chile has exported 23,903,222 boxes of fresh tables by week 8-2023, i.e. 17% more than by the same date last season. This increase, however, is due to the significant delay of the season there was in the previous season.

North America has received 73% of all Chilean fresh grape shipments, followed by China-Hong Kong, and Europe with 6%, respectively. Other markets in Asia have received 7% of the volume, Latin America 5%, and other destinations 3%.

From Fresh Plaza

The Fed’s Supply Chain Pressure Gauge Just Went Negative

NY Fed: ‘Global supply chain conditions have returned to normal’

Back in January 2022, when the world was in the throes of a supply chain crisis, economists at the New York Federal Reserve unveiled a new barometer to measure the inflation fallout, called the Global Supply Chain Pressure Index (GSCPI).

The GSCPI, designed to “capture supply chain disruptions using a range of indicators,” measures standard deviations from the historical mean. It peaked at 4.31 standard deviations in December 2021. In trading parlance, that’s a four-sigma or once-in-a-century event.

The index hit a milestone Monday. The New York Fed reported that February’s index reading had not only nose-dived but gone negative: to minus 0.26 standard deviations. It’s the lowest reading since August 2019.

“The GSCPI’s recent movements suggest that global supply chain conditions have returned to normal,” said the New York Fed.

Fed GSCPI supply chain index
(Chart: American Shipper based on data from New York Fed)

The index fell throughout last year. Improvements halted in September, with the gauge slightly worsening through December. Fed economists partly blamed COVID issues in China. The New York Fed said last month’s sharp improvement was due to the end of those “temporary setbacks” and a reduction of delivery times to Europe.

Fed GSCPI supply chain index
(American Shipper based on data from New York Fed)

On Feb. 22, New York Fed economists said that factors “captured by [the GSCPI] are strongly associated with inflationary developments measured by the producer price index and consumer price index.”

They maintained that if “the GSCPI falls back to its historical average over 12 months, our model would project a substantial easing of consumer price inflation over 2023, to below 4% … consistent with a soft-landing scenario.” (Their views do not necessarily represent those of the Fed.)

Inflation upside from easing bottlenecks

The official view of the Fed was presented by Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

Powell described the evolution of inflation since the pandemic began as a two-chapter story. In the first, consumer demand for goods spiked, overwhelming the global supply chain and stoking inflation. In the second — where we are now — the supply chain situation is largely in the rearview mirror and core inflation is instead driven by spending on housing, and even more so, services.

“The initial outbreak was all about spending on goods. People couldn’t spend on services so goods spending went way up,” Powell told senators. “And the global supply chain — many, many goods are imported — the global supply chain just collapsed.

“That was the source of the original inflation,” he asserted. “But it has now spread over the last two years to housing and all the rest of the service sector. Supply chain bottlenecks have eased … [and] we have been seeing goods inflation coming down now for some time. It’s still too high but it’s coming down.

“In housing, the new leases being signed tell us [housing inflation] will come down in the next six to 12 months. But the service sector — financial services, medical services, travel and leisure, all of those things — that’s really the source of the inflation we have now, which has not had much to do with the supply chain.”

Curbing this non-supply-chain-related inflation will be a “challenge,” he said, indicating that the Fed may increase rates “higher than previously anticipated,” a comment that sent the Dow down 575 points.

GSCPI methodology

Is the supply chain fully back to normal, as implied by the GSCPI?

The GSCPI methodology has been the subject of some criticism since the index’s inception. From a shipping industry perspective, the index composition may seem peculiar.

Of the 27 components, 21 are purchasing managers indexes for three subcomponents (delivery times, backlogs and purchased stocks) for seven economies (EU, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, U.K. and U.S.). 

Only six components are shipping indexes.

Four are U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics airfreight indexes (Asia-U.S., U.S.-Asia, Europe-U.S. and U.S.-Europe). Only two are related to ocean freight: the Baltic Dry Index (BDI) and Harpex.

The BDI is not a container shipping index. It measures dry bulk freight rates and is heavily influenced by Chinese iron ore imports.

The BDI was indeed inflated by supply chain issues in 2021, specifically, by congestion at Chinese ports resulting from COVID restrictions. However, over most of the period covered by the GSCPI (since 1998) the BDI has been largely driven by vessel supply issues. The BDI spiked in 2007-2008 due to under-capacity and slumped in the decade after the financial crisis due to rampant over-ordering of newbuildings.

The Harpex index does not measure container freight rates, it measures container-ship charter rates. Even as port congestion has largely vanished, the Harpex remains more than double pre-pandemic levels.

Not fully back to normal yet

At the Hellenic/Norwegian Chambers of Commerce shipping conference in January, Casey O’Brien, corporate counsel at Amazon (NYSE: AMZN), said the idea that “we are back to normal in the supply chain is optimistic. I don’t know that we’re back to normal, although it’s certainly heading that way.” (O’Brien noted that her views were her own, not necessarily Amazon’s.)

Other indicators confirm a move toward normalized supply chain conditions but not a full return.

Flexport publishes a weekly measure called the Ocean Timeliness Indicator (OTI). It tracks the number of days from the time containers leave factories in Asia to when they exit terminal gates at U.S. ports on the westbound route and European ports on the eastbound route.

As of Monday, the trans-Pacific OTI was at 74 days, down 35% from the all-time high of 114 days in early January 2022. However, the trans-Pacific OTI has actually increased over recent weeks and is still 61% above the average in April-December 2019.

chart showing supply chain delays
(Chart: Flexport)

“While the worst of the late 2021 build-up in congestion may be over, levels are still well above pre-pandemic levels,” said Flexport on Monday.

Another bellwether, ocean carrier service reliability, shows there’s still a long way to go. Whether a shipping service arrives on time or not is still basically a coin toss, according to the latest data from Sea-Intelligence.

It determined that global service reliability was 52.6% in January (slightly worse than December). The January average was well above the nadir of 30.4% hit in January 2022, but still far below the 2018-2019 pre-COVID average of 74.3%.

Data on cargo “rolls” paints the same picture: big improvements but not a full normalization. Project44 data on FreightWaves SONAR tracks the global weekly percentage of cargo arriving on a different ship than it was originally booked.

As of the last week of February, this indicator was down 39% from its peak in January 2021. But cargo rolls had increased from lows hit in November and were still 48% above the average in the fourth quarter of 2019, prior to the pandemic effect on supply chains and inflation.

(Chart: FreightWaves SONAR)

From FreightWaves


The global pear market seems to be on a stable note, with increasing demand and good prices, especially for smaller sizes. The Belgian pear market is doing well, with a surge of 30% in prices in the last month, and a high demand for smaller sizes. Meanwhile, Germany is experiencing an increase in overseas supplies, primarily from South Africa. Switzerland is seeing positive development in the organic fruit market, and club concepts are on the rise. In Italy, a lack of large sizes of pears has pushed prices up, while Spain is experiencing lower harvests but good prices and sales for pears due to a shortage, especially for larger sizes. Severe weather in South Africa has led to a fall in pear volumes, with some major growing areas hit by hail events. The lower yields are expected to have a significant impact on exports, however, the introduction of blush pears like Forelle in China is expected to create new opportunities. Meanwhile, in North America, pear growers are looking to promote their fruit and attract younger consumers. In Argentina, an increase in pear production is expected, although the challenges facing exporters include high inflation, government price and currency controls, and difficulties importing equipment and inputs.

Netherlands: Conference pear prices stabilised after rebound in January
In contrast to the struggling apple market, pear sales in the Netherlands are progressing satisfactorily this year. The Doyenné du Comice pear season has come to an end, limiting Dutch supply to Conference and Gieser Wildeman pears. The Doyenné du Comice pear season went well, according to a Dutch fruit trader. “Price-wise, the season went satisfactorily. Italy also took a lot of Comice pears this year, you see that the pear harvest in this country is getting smaller every year due to the problems with the brown marbled shield bug. Sales of Conference pears are also stable. Prices have been pretty good all season. We saw a rebound in January, now prices have stabilised,” the trader said. “Demand is broad, both from Europe and overseas. However, you do see a lot of tinted pears across the board this year.”

Belgium: Smooth second half for pear season
The pear market seems to be going smoothly during the second half of the season. “There is actually nothing really holding back the pears at the moment. Demand can be called good. You can also feel that in prices, as they have gone up by about 30 per cent in the last month. It’s stagnating a bit at the moment,” says a Belgian exporter. “However, it is notable that especially the smaller sizes of Belgian pears are doing well for now. The thicker pears are a bit more difficult. You also notice this in the prices, because the smaller ones have increased, but the thicker sizes have rather dropped or remained stable in the last month. This is then also due to the fact that smaller sizes are more scarce abroad, so volumes are bought in Belgium.”

A grower indicates that the pear market is nothing to write home about, but “fortunately” the situation is not as bad as for apples. “Last year we had a good year, but this year we are just making costs back. Certainly, pears picked on time are holding up well towards the second part of the season. Pears picked later should not be kept too long, because you do see the necessary dropouts occurring now.”

Germany: Overseas supplies are increasing
The relevance of the Italian, Dutch, Belgian and domestic German pears is decreasing. The demand is slightly rising, while mainly smaller calibres are entering the market.

Meanwhile, the supplies from South Africa are increasing, dominated by the varieties Bon Chretien, Rosemarie, Celina and Cheeky. Overall, the quality of the overseas pears is very satisfying, which is why they are gaining popularity on the market. In general, prices are somewhat lower than last year. Especially in the Lake Constance area, the Xenia variety has been gaining ground over the last few years, both in conventional and organic fruits. Since 1 September 2022, the Deutsche Obst-Sorten Konsortium GmbH (DOSK) has the exclusive brand license for Germany.

Switzerland: Organic and club pears on the rise
The Swiss pear market shows a positive development, particularly for organic fruits. Over 191 tonnes of organic pears were sold by Swiss retailers in December 2022, a total of 39% more than in December of the previous year. The highest December sales of organic pears since 2017 was also a result of the very good domestic pear harvest last year. Also in Swiss retail, club concepts are on the rise. The red-skinned pear Fred from Varicom has been rapidly gaining importance since the successful brand launch in 2018 and is now cultivated in all the classic pear-growing regions of Western Europe. Last year, Swiss pear-growers harvested around 200 tons in total.

Italy: Lack of large sizes pushes prices up
The Italian pear market was decent for large size pears. This was confirmed by a major player from the north of Italy. “This year, there was a lack of large sizes, which is why prices are high, especially for the valuable and main varieties such as Abate and William. On the other hand, there are difficulties, in terms of consumption and prices, for the Santa Maria and Kaiser varieties.”

The player explains that Abate pears or other varieties of size 65-, i.e. small, are present in large quantities and therefore sold at low prices. ” The pears were sold as a first-price product, but in competition on the foreign market with other pears. There is also a growing presence of foreign products in Italy: Conference pears from Belgium and the Netherlands and this is due to their low prices. “And competition for Italian pears is strong, from Belgium and the Netherlands, even abroad,” the player claims.

According to data compiled by Istat, over the entire territory of the province of Ferrara (Emilia Romagna), from 2013 to 2022 the number of hectares has fallen from around 22,000 to just over 15,000, and even in 2023 uprooting will not stop, especially for the Abate variety.

Purchase frequency is constant for pears in Italy, and they have been purchased by 52% of Italian households in the last twelve months (vs. 57% two years ago), according to GfK Consumer Panel data. Purchases of pears are subject to seasonality: we find maximum levels of over 21 to almost 23% between September and November; minimum levels between 11 and 14% in June, July and August. Organic represents an opportunity to boost purchases.

Spain: Lower harvest but good prices and sales for Spanish pears
The Spanish pear market is experiencing good prices and good sales for pears due to the shortage in general, especially for large sizes. The harvest has been around 30-35% lower in Lleida and Aragon and Navarra due to the frosts in April. Some areas have lost up to 60% of their production. Later in summer, the heat waves in June and July made an impact in the fruit sizes, which are mainly small. On the other hand, a considerably high number of pears have had malformations due to the adverse climate conditions. The effects of bad weather also brought higher fruit losses in general.

Conference pears are doing well due to the big drop in production in Belgium and the Netherlands as well. Williams and Bartlett are also selling well with good prices. Nevertheless, the demand for Blanquilla has continued its downward trend, confirming its decline according to an exporter, who explains that Israel was a big importer some years ago until Turkey introduced its Santamaria pears, which keep gaining ground. Greece also consumed Spanish Blanquillas in the past, but they started planting themselves and now they are self-sufficient.

The high production costs is one of the biggest concerns for the sector, which have increased by 30% in one year and they keep going up.

France: a market less impacted than the apple
The pear market is much more “fluid” this year than the apple market, according to a French operator. “The market is less impacted than for apples, which are very difficult. There is no overproduction in Europe and prices are globally similar to those of last year”.

If volumes are lower, the problems that usually occur with the Comice variety are absent this year. It should be noted, however, that sizes have decreased due to increasingly hot and dry weather conditions. The southern hemisphere starts next week with South Africa.

South Africa: Bad weather hits South African pear harvest and export
The weather has been affecting South African pear export estimates: the impact from hail events in several pear growing areas is becoming clearer; initially it was estimated that pear volumes would be down by 6% (totalling just under 20 million 12.5kg cartons) but a major top fruit grower says it could eventually be closer to 8% or 9%.

At this early stage of the export season, shipments to Europe are down by 40%, to the UK it’s 57% below last year’s level YTD and to the Middle East there’s a drop of 14%. However, volume-wise most pears have thus far been sent to the Middle East and to Europe, with Russia in third place.

Exports to Russia and the Far East have increased by 30% and 38% respectively.

This will be the first year in which South Africa sends significant volumes of pears to China, a new market, and there’s excitement about the opportunities for blush pears like Forelle in China. The Forelle harvest has not yet started; it’s anticipated to return to normal volumes of approximately 4 million cartons.

Williams Bon Chretien pears are down by 31% overall, but there’s a drop of 39% in Ceres, one of the hail-affected areas.

There’s significant sunburn damage but, says the technical director of a pomefruit company, producers who have erected drape nets will get value for their investment as it is definitely reducing the incidence of sunburn.

Packham pears, especially, have low packouts, being knobbly and not smooth and in Ceres around 40% are being sent for juicing.

“There is a lot of wind damage on Packhams. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such poor packouts as we’re seeing on Packhams at the moment,” a packhouse manager remarks. “There’s definitely more wind than other years.”

Lower packout percentages are also a factor of the decrease in exports of Packham pears. It has become too expensive with packaging and shipping costs to export class 2 Packhams to places like Russia, for example. The market for a normal EU1 spec Packham has dwindled, exporters say and with packaging prices drastically increasing every year it has become, an exporter says, “insanely expensive” to pack pears.

Packhouses now select only high quality Packhams, packing for the Far East: Indonesia, Malaysia, India and to an extent still Hong Kong. 

Export prices are under pressure and demand is slow. Domestically the average pear price is R7.44 per kilogram, expected to remain stable this month.

North America: Push for pear promotion
Pears have moved into promotable territory in North America. “We are starting to wrap up on some varieties and organics, but green and red d’Anjou pears remain in good supply with promotion opportunities,” says one Washington-based grower-shipper. “Summer pears like Bartlett are winding down and Bosc is as well.”

While supplies look comparable to last year at this time, the harvest did get a slightly later start this season in the Pacific Northwest. “That is not an impact now at retail since harvest occurred in the fall. We have good volumes of those two winter pear varieties for promotion,” she says, noting its pears come from the Wenatchee and Entiat River Valleys in Washington State.

Pear quality is also strong on d’Anjou pears particularly right now. “It’s an ideal time to plan a bigger pear promotion, especially before seasonal/spring/summer fruits start coming in and taking prominent display space,” she says. “Bulk promotions on pears can help attract consumers to purchase and boost volume, while also enjoying dollar growth to the category and produce department as a whole.”

As for demand, it is good. However, growers-shippers want to keep the fruit in the spotlight. “We need to keep pears on consumer minds and there is room to get people, especially younger demographics, enjoying more pears,” she says. “It’s important we make enjoying pears easy for shoppers and give them a great flavor experience and confidence that the pears they pick up will be ready to eat shortly after purchase.”

Argentina: Notable increase in production of Argentine pears expected
The estimates made by the USDA for the production of pears in Argentina, which this year SENASA presented – up to January 8 for the Williams pear and to January 2 for the Packham’s -, foresee an increase of 25%, due to good climatic conditions, that together with the lower supply from the countries of the northern hemisphere, point to also increase exports this 2023.

In figures, the production would amount to 700,000 tons of pears according to the North American organization, rising notably from the 560,000 tons that the harvest totalled in 2022, when it fell 4% year-on-year. Exports, for their part, would rise to 325,000 tons, evidencing a significant rise from the 277,500 tons recorded by CAFI in 2022, when they fell 9% compared to the previous year.

However, as the USDA report points out, “despite these projected increases in production and exports, Argentine exporters continue to face difficult internal economic conditions that negatively affect their competitiveness. High inflation and government price and currency controls create market distortions that make long-term business planning difficult. The government has also made it increasingly difficult to import inputs needed by the fruit industry.”

“As a result of these challenges, growers have postponed the necessary investments in equipment and replanting with new varieties,” notes the USDA, recalling that “the cost of planting one hectare with new varieties, with protection against hail and dual purpose irrigation ( irrigation and frost prevention) is about $50,000”, while “the production cost of a kilogram of apples or pears was estimated at $0.26/fruit by the Fruit Contracting Table.”

And it is true that “many factors, including the active management of the peso exchange rate, the increase in the costs of inputs for labor and energy, and the vertiginous increase in the price of refrigerated containers due to global shortages of equipment, have presented important challenges for the profitability of producers in recent years”. This year, in addition, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has been added.

“In February 2022, when Russia invaded the Ukraine, the first fruit shipments were en route from Argentina to Russia when shipping lines began cancelling calls to Russian ports. Exporters had to redirect containers to other destinations and, in some cases, unload fruit that was not suitable for the European market at EU ports. In other cases, they had to use the nearest ports, such as Turkey, with additional logistics costs. Local oversupply and longer transit times affected the condition of the fruit, negatively impacting prices, so fruit that would normally have been sold on the fresh market was sold for processing at a higher price. With discount”.

“However, during the second half of 2022, several shipments left the port of Campana for Saint Petersburg, using facilities that normally load citrus. This alternative helped Argentina to export 18,000 tons of pears to the Russian market with shorter transit times”, reveals the USDA report.

However, exports of pears from Río Negro and Neuquén to Russia fell by 37% in 2022. Brazil rose last season as the first destination for the fruit, with the reception of 101,785 tons (+4%).

From Fresh Plaza

Peruvian Avocado Exports Up To Week 7 Have Already Increased By 31% This Season

According to figures provided by Fresh Fruit, Peru exported 4,370 tons of fresh avocado in week 7, i.e. 63% more than in the same week of last year, bringing the volume that the county has exported so far in this campaign to 14,730 tons; a volume that is 31% higher than in the same period of the previous campaign.

The main destinations of the avocado shipped in week 7 were the Netherlands, with a 31% share; Spain, with 25%; and China, with 21%.

“Last week, Peru exported 1,364 tons to the Netherlands, which accounted for 31% of all exports. 86% of the product shipped to this destination was exported via the port of Callao and the remaining 14% via the port of Paita.

“A total of 1,091 tons, i.e. 25% of all exports, were sent to Spain. All the avocado that arrived at this destination was shipped through the port of Callao.”

“Last week, the country only exported 916 tons of avocado to China; however, this was 37% more than in the previous week, remaining with a 21% share. The avocado shipped to China was also exported through the port of Callao.”

From Fresh Plaza

Peru Has Exported More Than 61 million Boxes Of Table Grapes This Season

According to data shared by the Peruvian Association of Table Grape Producers (Provid), from week 34 of 2022 to week 6 of 2023, Peru has exported 61,124,095 standardized 8.2 kg boxes of table grapes.

30% of all exports correspond to the Sweet Globe variety, 19% to the Red Globe variety, and 9% to the Allison grapes. These 3 varieties account for 58% of the volume sent.

The main producing areas are Piura, which accounts for 46% of the production, ICA with 40%, and Lambayeque with 7%.

It should be noted that Peru’s table grape industry expects to export 73,057,469 boxes, of 8.2 kilos each, in the 2022-2023 season.

From Fresh Plaza

Red Globe Still Brings In Good Business For Peruvian Table Grape Producer

The rapid shift to new generation cultivars means that all indications  point to the fact that the table grape industry work horse cultivar of Red Globe is fast becoming a niche product in the grape sector. One producer and exporter J&L Agroexportaciones based in Lima, Peru, with 100% Red Globe variety planted, has seen fluctuating prices in Europe, but enough to see constant good business.

According to Andrea Gamarra Castillo, sales manager at J&L, “We only have Red Globe planted on 96 hectares of this variety. However, we have a project for seedless grapes this year too. We have two orchards, one is in Pacanguilla and the other one in Casma, Peru.”

J&L holds Global Gap and Grasp certification. It operates as an agricultural cooperative that starts harvesting in October with peak exports from November to January and the last volumes sent between February to May each year.

Gamarra Castillo says they only export Red Globe to Europe. “We just export it to Europe. On prices, there have been some challenging years. However, I believe the reduction of Red Globe production here in Peru will help with the prices for the future.”

From Fresh Plaza

Onion Market

Idaho-E. Oregon/Western Oregon/Washington:
John Vlahandreas with Wada Farms reported in on March 1 from his Salem, OR, office. “Commenting on demand is tough for the start of March,” he said. “Boy, you have a lot of onions crossing from Mexico. It could put a dent into this late part of the season for the Northwest, and really any US growing area that is shipping right now.” John continued, “I think there probably wasn’t as much shrink as was projected early on, and the sky didn’t fall quite as hard as was anticipated. But you have shippers that held over onions because they didn’t want to disappoint customers like some may have last season with the shortage, so they want to have plenty of onions to keep their customers happy. I think the key here is maintaining those strong customer relationships and keeping them happy, so they stay with you.” He said, “The fact is, the Northwest onions are in really good shape. We haven’t had any issues, and they are holding up really well. For some reason, reds coming out of Northwest, particularly Washington and Western Oregon are milder this year than normal; they look good and are in good shape too.” When asked about the market, John said it’s stable. “Despite the steady flow of Mexican onions crossing, the market seems to be stable. We’re still looking at double digits, so the market’s not bad. And as I say, the onions are still in great shape, so that’s a big plus.” John added that transportation has been easy to get. “There are plenty of trucks out there, and even with the winter storms, if truckers plan their trips right, they are making their destinations OK. Even if it takes an extra day or two, it’s not bad.”

Idaho-E. Oregon/Washington:
OnionBusiness caught up with Jason Pearson with Eagle Eye Produce as he was on the fly this week to assess the crop in Texas. He said on March 1, “I am headed to Texas today, and I will have a full report with photos next week. As for Idaho-E. Oregon and Washington demand, buyers are primarily looking for jumbo reds and yellows, and colossals this week.” Jason added, “The market isn’t doing so great. Wouldn’t you know it – we have awesome quality onions, and the market is off. Overall, the market should be higher, given the stellar quality we have. Then you take into account all the sheds that are finishing, and boy, the market should be even higher. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Idaho-E. Oregon:
Steve Baker with Baker & Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, weighed in on March 1, saying, “Demand this week is shaping up to be similar to the past six to eight weeks. Not real busy. Just steady business with the same customer base. Bigger onions like super colossals and colossals seem to be tight and are harder to come by. For all other sizes and colors the demand seems even across the board.” Steve said the market “has come down again this week from last week’s prices,” and he noted, “With new crop coming in and with a few sheds trying to push to finish soon we are seeing pressure on the market.” He added, “The quality and appearance have been very nice.” And he commented, “Transportation overall has been fairly easy.  We have had occasional issues securing some trucks due to some major storms around us.”

Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said on March 1 the Tampico deal is “rolling right along.” He noted, “Movement is good on yellows and reds and a little slow on white, but we’re hitting on all cylinders and have all colors and sizes now,” 

David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in McAllen told us on March 1 the Mexican deal is going well. “Quality and volume are good, and more guys are coming in as more buyers switch to new crop,” he said.

Bronx, NY:
Lou Getzelman with Canyon Sales Co. on the Hunts Point Market in New York told us on March 1 he continues to move onions mostly from the Northwest, “We are still sourcing product primarily from out West, Idaho and Washington,” he said. “We’ve started out of Mexico, but not in a big way yet. But they sure do have plenty of onions.” Lou continued, “The focus has been helping our partners in Idaho finish.  The quality has been excellent, and we expect most of our shippers to finish in mid- to the later part of March.” He went on to say that demand had picked up this week, noting, “Demand started out a touch stronger this week. February was not great. We had a short four-day week with President’s Day mixed in there, and then back East we had a couple of days where no one could get a load picked up because I-80 has been closed in Wyoming.  It gave customers and opportunity to sell what was in their store, and now most receivers seem ready to reload. Hopefully, the weather cooperates.” Demand is still strongest for bigger onions, he said. “Big stuff is still getting a premium. There are deals to be had across all three colors right now.” Lou said the market “has been sloppy, and it could stay that way through much of March, but at these levels can you really get hurt if you have great quality?” And he added, “We are still seeing shippers push jumbo reds, and if you’re looking for a good chunk on a mixer that is an item you can build an order around and make a shipper very happy.”  When asked what might causing market conditions, Lou said, “Weather played a part in the soft demand last week, and it was very tough to get orders picked up in Idaho and Washington to head East. We need to make sure these trucks are picking up. Trucks seem to be pretty easy to get down South.” Also, he said, “Buyers were hesitant to load because there has been a lot of uncertainty in the market. What is Mexico going to do? How many onions are left in Idaho?  Anytime there’s uncertainty, there’s going to be speculation.” But, he said, “We’re hoping for a more promising March as we head into Easter and Passover. Hopefully, we get a little bit of a push.  With prices at these levels business should be brisk.”

Organic Onions:
Brad Sumner with Pacific Coast Trading in Portland told us on March 1 his company continues to move onions out of the West and Northwest. He said, “We are still peddling the crop out of Washington and a little still in California.” Brad noted, “Demand has definitely picked up this week for us – the February fog has lifted. Generally speaking, all colors for us are moving at their normal pace, and market pricing again is steady.  Retail pricing cruising along.  Some deals being made based on inventories and individual shed situations.” Commenting on quality, Brad said that “issues have definitely popped up.” He continued, “Any kind of missed rotation or slow movement of finished product can lead to shelf issues.  Organics just do not have the same legs as conventional. Once you wake them up from their cold slumber, they want to bolt.” About the new month, Brad said, “I feel like March will be moving month.  Sheds will look to move as much as they can of any excessive storage inventory outside of contracts and commitments.  The hope is to be out of the way of the Mexico/California Desert deal that starts late April.” And he said transportation is good. “Washington to California, trucks are available, and pricing is fair.”

Texas Rio Grande Valley:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco told us on March 1 some Rio Grande Valley sheds are shipping limited volume of onions now.  “Texas has had a few onions already and will have more next week,” he said about the area’s 2023 crop, which he said looks very good. “Onion House will start shipping yellows between March 25 and April 1.”

David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in McAllen said on March 1 his Rio Grande season will kick off March 20. “The crop looks good, and we’ll have all three colors,” he said. David also said the Wintergarden area’s onions are doing well but could be looking at a somewhat later start date than normal.

Danny Ray with Ray Farms Inc. in Glennville told us on March 1 that the weather has been great for onions lately. “We’ve had 80-degree weather all week,” he said. “They are really coming up – it won’t be long now. The crop looks very good, and we are on track for the season start-up.” Danny continued, “Though there hasn’t been any official notice, I’ve been hearing that the Committee will be working on the Vidalia official start date the same way they have done in past years. As we get closer, we should have a set date; at least, that’s what I’m hearing.”

Chihuahua, Mexico/New Mexico:
James Johnson with Carzalia Valley Produce in Columbus, NM, said on March 1 his 2023 season is a bit behind. “Spring seeded onions are all in,” he said. “A few people around here are still planting.  We’ve had what I thought was a mild winter, but it seems to me like the onions are a little behind for this time of year.” James said he is looking at a mid-April start date for Chihuahua, and the New Mexico season will start in late May.

From Onion Business


The global apple market is facing significant challenges in different regions. In the Netherlands, the expansion of Polish apple exports has resulted in sluggish sales, which has led to the need to sell at low prices. Meanwhile, in Belgium, consumers are shifting to cheaper options as inflation rises, leading to a drop in the consumption of more expensive apple varieties. Turkey is facing significant logistical challenges for apples after an earthquake caused damage to the country’s port. New Zealand has also been hit by disaster in the form of Cyclone Gabrielle, which has wiped out many apple orchards, potentially causing millions worth of damage to the apple industry. On a smaller scale, South Africa is facing a reduction in supplies of apples due to unexpected hail events that caused significant damage in various areas, leading to a constrained supply of large apples. In contrast, the apple season in Michigan in the US has seen record production, and there is an excellent availability of Gala, Fuji, Reds, Golds, and Ambrosia. Finally, in Argentina, the volume of apple exports has fallen year on year, with production levels at the lowest levels of recent years.

The Netherlands: Tough apple market
The Dutch apple market is struggling. With the expansion of Polish apple exports, sales of Dutch apples have largely become a domestic affair. “I still don’t think there are even too many Elstar apples, but quality problems continue to hang over the market. As a result, there is a lot of need to sell. Prices for the really good Elstar are around half a euro. That is still below the level at which they were bought on the wood, but there are costs added to that. At the same time, I see it looking a lot sunnier for the longer term – when we get past March – but then you have to have really good apples,” said a Dutch fruit trader

Belgium: Consumption of apples increasingly lacking
Price is winning out over quality towards the end of the Belgian apple season. “The situation is of course generally known, but due to inflation we see that people are increasingly looking for cheaper options. There is a shift from more expensive (club) varieties to apples like Jonagold,” said a trader.

Still, this does not mean we are already shifting towards a positive apple market. “Prices are starting to improve, but consumption leaves something to be desired. Whereas 20 years ago consumption was 12 kg per capita, today it is even lower than was already thought at 6.8 kg. Indeed, European stocks are not such that prices should be bad. With the situation 20 years ago, we would be having a good season now.”

Towards the end of the season, therefore, the winners may well be the cheaper apples. “After all, qualitatively they also just look good. You always have an expectation when you open the cell, but it didn’t disappoint me. They can still surprise. Jonagold and Golden are apples coming towards the end of the season. Last year this was a disadvantage because of the geopolitical situation, but this year everything should be able to be sold with the current stocks.”

France: Lower stocks and exports sales of French apples
In France, the year 2023 started with relatively low apple stocks. On 1 January, the European stock was 6% below the volumes of other years. In France, there is a 7% drop compared to the previous campaign and 9% compared to the average of the last three years.

Relatively low stocks should lead to a more ‘serene’ second half of the campaign for French producers. In terms of trade, although supply is reduced, demand is not very dynamic. Sales in France are relatively stable, on the other hand, as there has been a drop in export sales which amounted to -12% at the beginning of February. This decline is certainly linked to the poorer conservation of apples compared to other years, due to the extreme conditions of this summer.  

Although consumption is relative, over the first part of the campaign, we can still see an increase of 3% in sales volumes compared to last year over the same period (August – end of December) but a drop of 6.5% compared to the average of the last 3 years. This year, the average retail price is 2.01 euros, all distribution channels and all varieties combined, down by 7% compared to last year, despite cost increases. The prices on the shelves are very high, while producers are not getting a fair price for their apples. That said, some retailers have played the game and there has been a slight increase in the price paid to producers since mid-January.

The reason for the lower average price is the big differences between the call price for apples on promotion or in bags and the price on the shelf. In addition, the bag of apples is increasingly favoured by the consumer under financial constraints. In 2018-2019, pre-packed apples represented 36% of purchases. In 2019-2020, it reached 39% and today it represents 43%. We can see that there is a higher turnover in the volume of apples in bags than for apples at the bottom of the shelf, which are more upmarket and more expensive. This indicates that consumers are increasingly looking for a better price.

Germany: Domestic supply dominates market
Domestic supply is currently dominating the market, specifically lstar, Jonagold, Braeburn and Boskoop. From Italy, Granny Smith, Pink Lady and Golden Delicious are entering the market. France participated mainly with the club varieties Pink Lady and Jazz. Dutch, Belgian and Polish inflows only had a local supplementary character and did not play a major role. The first overseas parties will arrive soon. Overall, the supply had become slightly limited, but demand could still be satisfied without any effort. In southern Germany the Gala season will approximately end late April, Elstar volumes will be sufficient until May-June. The Jonagold varieties from last year’s season will last until the start of the new harvest.

Austria: Sales of apples increase compared to last year
All in all, about 5% more Austrian apples were sold in December compared to the corresponding period of the previous year. Over the Christmas holidays, sales even increased by a quarter. However, if one takes into account the 4% weaker wholesale price of 0.95 EUR/kg compared to the previous year combined with the current cost increases, there is not much left of the increase in sales. The domestic AMA stock for dessert apples was 88,148 t (organic & organic) on 1 December, 8% below the previous month’s level and 17% above December of last year.

Poland: Positive prospects for apples season despite labour challenges
By now, all of the apples have been harvested, but getting the required labour was a challenge. That said, the level of sales is good. There have been no issues from a logistical standpoint. The little delays that containers and vessels have, are of no consequence to the fruit quality of the produce that is being shipped. The Egyptian market is almost completely closed in comparison to the previous seasons. It’s expected that the quality of the apples that are still in cold storage will allow Polish exporters to send apples to remote markets in Asia.

Italy: Lowest apple stocks in years, season expected to finish early
The situation in the apple sector in Italy on 1st February 2023 is very similar to the previous month, with regular de-stocking and much lower than average stocks for many varieties. Total stocks for apples are at 961,955 tons, the lowest in recent years. This is reported by Assomela.

For Golden Delicious, almost 40 per cent of the total harvest was sold and stocks were among the lowest ever recorded, at less than 330,000 tons. Gala sales proceeded smoothly in all Italian regions with current total stocks 33 per cent lower than last year’s; for this variety, the season is expected to close earlier than last year.

Good de-stocking levels also for the other varieties, among which Fuji stands out with sales in January approaching 25,000 tons. Sales are also in line with de-stocking plans for the other cultivars, both traditional and new ones, for some of which positive development is expected in the second half of the season.

Overseas sales are registering excellent volumes, especially in the Middle East and Central/South America. The development of the Indian market, which is active at this time of the season, is being evaluated. If the European market does not seem to be particularly dynamic, good performances are nevertheless being recorded for Spain, which is showing itself to be receptive. A good recovery is also noted in the Italian market.

Production for the Southern Hemisphere producing countries is expected to increase slightly (+5%) and should settle at just over 5 million tonnes. Export forecasts are growing compared to previous years, but with a much lower share of product destined for the European market. This could be an excellent opportunity for Italian producers to maintain their strong positions in Italy and in the rest of Europe.

Spain: Apple prices higher than last season but lower than average
The Golden apple prices in week 5 kept throughout week, although to a lesser extent than the previous week (1% at origin and 2% after being packed). Prices are above previous campaigns: 46% more than last season at origin and 26% compared to average; while at the packing station the prices are 33% higher than the last campaign and 24% higher than the average. As for the Fuji apple, nothing changed in the week 5 at origin, while once again it falls slightly after being packed (-1%). This week’s prices, like the campaign averages, continue to be higher than last season but lower than the average. Royal Gala apples prices increased 2% this week at origin, while at the packing station it dropped 3%. This week’s quotes and campaign media are above previous campaigns.

Turkey: Logistical challenges for apples after earthquake
As there will be fewer volumes of good quality apples available in the coming months, prices are expected to increase. The price for Turkish apples had remained the same until February started. However, once February got going, price started to increase, as good quality apples became harder to find. This trend is expected to continue over the coming months and good quality apples will become rather expensive. The earthquake is a huge disaster for Turkey and they still face massive problems because of what happened. İskenderun port was one of the biggest ports in Turkey and it is totally out of order right now. Thousands of containers were burned in port. Especially local transport has become a big problem and challenge.

South Africa: Unexpected hail events reduce supplies of apples
The apple season has had a rather dramatic start: in the Witzenberg mountains outside where four separate hail events totally outside their rainfall season led to major damage in that area, to the extent that some producers in the Witzenberg Valley will send all of their apples for processing this season.

The losses in the Ceres area are estimated at many thousands of tonnes, plus localised hail in Grabouw and in the Langkloof, and for the moment the apple export estimate is 5% down on last year, just over 43 million 12.5 kg cartons, lower than the previous two years.

Exports since the start of the year have been Cripps Red and Golden Delicious from last year’s harvest to mostly Africa (there was more carry-over stock) and new-season Royal Galas and Panorama Golden.

As a result of the hail, the supply of large apples from these areas will be constrained. “There could be less big fruit available for places like Vietnam and I expect that prices for bigger-sized fruit will be better this year because of supply and demand,” an apple marketer opines.

On the other hand, as a result of the heatwave in Europe the requests for apples from the UK and Europe have started coming in more than two months earlier than usual, another exporter says, especially for Royal Gala from the UK in their case.

“Late season apple varieties such as Cripps Pink/Pink Lady® and Cripps Red/Joya® are expected to increase,” says industry body Hortgro. “This is due to newer cultivar strains with better yields and packouts being planted in recent years.”

Domestically, apples cost R8.60 per kilogram, becoming less expensive as volumes increase. Marginal counts can no longer afford to be exported due to shipping costs, oversupplying the local market to a degree.

The port of Cape Town has been windbound for three days this week and exports are a few days behind schedule.

North America: Varied apple season from coast to coast
Washington state, the largest apple growing state in the US is faced with a short 2022-2023 apple crop. Production is expected to be about 100 million boxes, which is roughly 20 percent down from about 121-122 million boxes last year. As a result, the import apple season has started earlier. One Washington shipper says fruit is already on the water from Chile. While the import season starts generally April-May, this year it’s March to early April. Imports are largely coming from Chile while other countries such as New Zealand are not sending as much as they used to.

On varietals, Honeycrisp supplies are significantly down. There are plenty of small galas in the pipeline–however large Gala supplies are tighter. There are also a lot of large Fujis in the U.S. but a lack of small Fujis in Washington and the same goes for Granny Smith. A large number of Pink Lady imports are anticipated given the shorter crop of Pinks and some condition issues due to the late harvest. 

On demand, strong demand in the fall also impacted overall supplies. “However, the prices have also been raised and we’ve seen overall slower movement.” 

Michigan in the Midwest together with the Northeast grow about 20 percent of the country’s apple crop. This season, Michigan has a record crop and production of all varieties was up. Supplies of almost all varieties are still ample with excellent availability of Gala, Fuji, Reds, Golds, and Ambrosia,” a Michigan shipper says. The state is almost finished with Honeycrisp following rain issues that affected the variety’s pack outs. While January movement on apples was slow, demand is picking back up this month. 

On the East Coast, in New York and Pennsylvania, production seems to be average, or a bit above average this year. “We have enough fruit to keep our customers supplied through summer,” one shipper said. The growing conditions were very good and as a result, the region is seeing excellent quality fruit. Lower supplies from Washington have helped drive up demand.

Argentina: Volume of Argentine apples exported falls year on year
The apple harvest in the production regions of Argentina is in its first weeks. As the Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Argentina recently shared in a report on the apple and pear campaign, with data up to January 2023, this year an early flowering brought forward the start of the harvest from the first week of February to the third week of January. In fact, the Gala harvest was expected for January 21 and the Red Delicious for February 11.

The 2023 campaign begins after production in 2022 was located “at the lowest levels of recent years. The apple reached 420,000 tons, with a drop of 12% in relation to 2021”, highlights the organization.

“Apple exports also reflect a considerable drop, to the lowest levels in recent years. The lack of 7,000 tons of exports is noted in the month of March and a drop of 5,000 tons in the months of April and May. In this case, the decrease in sales to Russia is the main explanation for this drop”.

Statistics with data up to December 2022 provide detailed figures for this decline in apple exports from Río Negro and Neuquén in tons, per month and country of destination. In total, 63,924 tons were exported in 2022, 19% less than the volume dispatched in 2021 and 34% less than the almost 97,200 tons exported in 2020.

Brazil, followed by Bolivia and Paraguay, have been the main destinations for Argentine apples. However, exports to Brazil have fallen 20% year-on-year and volumes shipped to Bolivia have fallen 19%. On the contrary, the significant increase of 233% in shipments to Paraguay stands out, along with the 511% growth in exports to Canada or, as a curiosity, 75% to Libya.

Russia falls to fourth position in the list of the main destinations for apples from Neuquén and Río Negro after a 60% contraction in the volumes of fruit purchased in 2022, and the United States remains in fifth position despite registering a drop 40%.

In 2022, only 15% of the fresh apples produced in the region were destined for export, while 57% were sold in the domestic market. However, from the Ministry of Agriculture they point out that in 2022 domestic consumption continued with the drop observed in 2021. “2022 presents a drop of 7% in relation to 2021 and 11% in relation to the peak of 2020. Consumption returned at 2017-2018 levels”. The remaining 28%, some 119,000 tons, was destined for the processing industry.

New Zealand: Cyclone Gabrielle devastates New Zealand apple harvest
New Zealand is dealing with the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle which hit the country on Monday night. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has called Gabrielle the biggest weather event to hit the country in the last century. It is estimated to have affected at least a third of the country’s five million population. A state of emergency has been declared in the country.

The cyclone has caused significant flooding and landslides across the North Island, but the damage is worst in coastal areas in the far north and east coast of the North Island – Hawkes Bay, Coromandel and Northland are among the worst hit.

The New Zealand apple harvest had just started, with a lot of trees full of apples ready to be picked, which have sustained huge damage from the storm. Although it is still very early days and growers are unable to access the orchards, one grower has said the damage could in the millions. In Hawke’s Bay one large apple grower said: “Just driving around, it’s very clear to see apple trees uprooted and washed away, everything’s gone.”

Big apple trees laden with fruit, which in harvest had to be accessed with ladders, were tipped over, with the wreckage piled up around them. “There is a lot of technology and innovation that has gone into the orchards over time and it’s just all gone.”

From Fresh Plaza

Fresh Produce Industry Fighting To Keep Up With Global Challenges

The International Fresh Produce Association has released the state of the industry report for 2022.

The report addresses the many challenges faced by the industry during 2022, including inflation, labor, war, extreme climate events, the pandemic, and lagging in fresh produce consumption. 

More than 3 billion people in the world are not able to afford a healthy diet, causing over 11 million deaths related to dietary risk factors. 

The report states that: “The World Trade Organization (WTO) forecast estimates world GDP (Gross Domestic Product) will grow by 2.8% in 2022 and 2.3% in 2023. But there is a high degree of uncertainty associated with the forecast due to numerous and interrelated risks, including shifting monetary policy in advanced economies and the unpredictable nature of the Russia-Ukraine war.”

One of the big effects that the war in Ukraine has had is the increase in food prices since both the Russian Federation and Ukraine are major suppliers of grains and fertilizers. 

In effect, this has increased food insecurity, especially in low-income countries where households must allocate most of their income to food. 

The report lays out different possible ideas or “what if’s” from where the industry could benefit and the consumption of fresh produce could become a priority for nations around the globe.

Produce as a path to prosperity

The report proposes that rather than considering produce as a simple commodity, both developing countries and high-income countries could use trade and production to improve their GDP while increasing widespread awareness of the nutritional benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables. 

Societies investing in a better food future

The idea of decentralizing our food systems and increasing local production across nations is part of the debate with regard to the resilience of our global supply chains. 

Especially during this last year, the global supply chain has seen a significant increase in delays due to an increase in container shipping rates. 

Focusing local production for local markets could help decrease food insecurities and losses arising from issues in the global supply chain. 

Overall, the report emphasized that nutrition security and access to healthy food should be basic human rights. 

Making healthy food accessible to everyone is another of the objectives proposed by the report. 

IFPA closed the statement with encouraging words for members of the industry: “IFPA is not in this to simply change the game. We are in it to change the world. And together with our member community, the produce industry, and our industry allies, we will.”

From Fresh Fruit Portal