MARKET REPORT – APR. 6TH, 2016
Here’s a fast rundown on where things are at in fruit land!
You may not know it, but every sea container on international waters is very visible and tracked. I could tell you, in an hour, if you cared, and I had the time, how many cases of apples or bananas or kilos of marble tiles are on the water, when they will arrive, and where, whether Houston or Vladivostok, who shipped them and who is receiving them. The global fruit and vegetable trade is very, very visible – everyone knows what everyone else is importing and exporting, to the pound. Last week, for instance I know that there were 82 containers of organic apples shipped from Peru. Which is nothing compared to the 66,000 containers of bananas that were shipped from Ecuador, if it was an average week. So when I say that Washington apple packers are ‘juggling’ pricing based on sales vs. inventory, they are also wary of what is arriving from South America, how many, when and to whom. And that is what is happening right now – dwindling supplies of Washington fruit are being measured against arrivals of Southern Hemisphere fruit – especially Gala which ships at least a month earlier than others.
Avocados – well, Mother Nature turned the heat up across W. Canada last week – roasted vegetables for dinner came off the menu, replaced with nachos and guac on the patio as we all adjusted to a sweater-free week, and avocado sales leapt. Sorry for limited sizing the last couple of days – new load was delayed and just arrived – and our chance to look at the first bins of the Calabaza from Pragor mentioned at length in Friday’s report.
Bananas – what’s ASOGUABO? Back in the dark ages of Fair Trade Bananas (2009) we, as many of you know, represented one of the first containers shipped direct from a cooperative to a customer direct instead of through the hands of a multi-national. When we started with BOS 7 years ago, simultaneously, Equal Exchange, one of the original Fair Trade importers in New York, literally within a few weeks, also broke the barriers and brought in their first direct container of bananas from CEPIBO, a coop literally a few miles from BOS in Piura, Peru. Shortly after they also started importing from ASOGUABO in Ecuador. With all the weather (El Nino) related problems in both countries, including recent ‘inundations’ in Peru, we would be dumb to only have one supplier, so we have now started a relationship with this cooperative in Ecuador, one of the original pioneers of Fair Trade Organic Bananas. They are listed, but you may not see them until the weekend.
Grapefruit – What’s an Oro Blanco? It’s a great big fat thick-skinned hybrid that tastes grapefruit, but doesn’t make your lips pucker – sweet as all get out, and considering its short season, a great opportunity for something different! And watch for a great opportunity with Rebel Grapefruit. We’re bringing in choice grapefruit from Pragor in bins, mostly big ones, and repacking them here in a 5# bag – those should be available by Thursday – the latest addition to our growing listing of Rebel products.
Mangos – oh well, can’t fight Mother Nature – but things are changing with a 2nd flush of Ataulfo now harvesting in the south, and the miniscule amounts of Tommy’s now being harvested at the lowest elevations of Michoacan – but watch this all change very quickly as the late but great central Mexico season ramps up in the next couple of weeks.
Melons – Melon season has begun, and couldn’t have happened at a better time now that spring has sprung. Expect to see Honeydew and icebox Watermelon first, including bins on their way, with Cantaloupe 2-3 weeks out, taking longer to ripen. With all the heat turned on across Sonora – inland and on the coast, supply should ramp up quickly, with prices expected to edge down at the same time, just not yet.
Citrus – looking across the broad range, limes are stable for the moment, but lemons are creeping up as supply becomes limited to the desert and Riverside, with the primary production area in the Central Valley winding down. The California Valencia crop is just starting to colour up, with most fruit still coming from Hermosillo, Sonora. Navels are stable for now, but prices will also start to climb as the season starts to wind down – same story for Cara Cara and Blood which are both way past their peak volumes. Specialty fruit will continue to be the story, with multiple mandarin / tangerine varieties available, and some of the latest varieties just starting. Our fave continues to be Pixie from Churchill – pricey but liquid heaven.
Strawberries – Watsonville has erupted with beautiful fruit and pricing has tumbled to more historic levels after the worst bloody counter-season across Mexico and Oxnard ends – just one terrible year for producers from Zamora north – all weather related. Now we’re into a much more interesting point where production in Watsonville is high, prices are low, and the minute that the first cherries start harvesting, with much more lucrative picking rates, there will be an exodus of harvesting crews moving 200 miles to the East. This will be a very interesting year as the battle for farm workers escalates – signing bonuses, performance incentives, free steak dinners on Fridays? Who knows – but there are not enough people to harvest California’s fruit this year. For those of you who are new on the scene, and a reminder for everyone else, Esteban Martinez is our primary strawberry vendor, and has been for over a decade. We are always happy with his fruit, happy with the way he grows, happy with the way he treats his crews, and happy with his ethics. His sisters helped form PAN in Watsonville – the Pesticide Action Network – paying to have warning signs about recent pesticide applications printed in Spanish, and posting them on recently-sprayed fields in the area, which have to have signs warning people to stay off the field, but usually only in English. He and his family, whose roots are in Toluna, literally under the Colima Volcano near Mazatlan, also operate “Little Butterfly” – a shelter for abused mothers with children. Anyhow, we just love the guy, and that’s the story. Very often it’s not just quality and price that drive purchasing decisions, it’s the other stuff – the background music – that’s equally as important.