MARKET REPORT – DEC. 23RD, 2015
Have a great holiday!
We will try to catch you up here so you have a good look-see at what is coming up through the end of December.
Apple supply is consistent yet hard to follow, especially WA supply, which will soon become our major source for many varieties – we’re in the season when supply is controlled by how fast packers open the doors on CA storage rooms, so a variety can be tight and pricey, and then available in abundance and prices fall for awhile. Washington packers are sitting on millions of cases of apples this time of year (organic and conventional) and consistently juggle the supply/demand/price game so they can achieve the highest return and stretch the season out as far as possible. That’s the way it is. Pears are the same story, but the crop was down and supply will become tighter and tighter over the next few weeks as the specialty fruit like Concorde wind down, putting more pressure on supply of Bosc and D’Anjou – both of which are expected to dry up potentially earlier than the first S. American fruit arrives.
The berry market is still a struggle with consistently cool temperatures across all growing regions – El Nino seems to be keeping all the heat in the East of the continent and Europe, and leaving the entire West at below-normal temperatures. There have even been some frosts in coastal Northern Mexico regions that haven’t hurt the crop substantially, but certainly have slowed harvest – the demand is there – just very little production. Blackberries, mostly grown farther south in Mexico are much more available, and an onslaught of Chilean and Argentinian blueberries is about to begin and that may have to be the berry focus for the holidays. Watch for a great price on fresh blueberries with today’s list – these were harvested on the weekend – can’t get fresher than that! Persimmons are finishing up quickly, but pomegranates should stay strong for some time. New storage techniques are allowing growers to keep this fruit stashed away for a much longer period than a few years ago, and some keep their product off the market until supply starts to thin out. Grape supply will now start in earnest by air from Peru, and we will likely start with that deal in a couple of weeks when prices start to come down, and air freight shipments are replaced with sea containers.
Avocado and grapefruit are consistent. We’re transitioning out of Star Ruby and into Rio Reds out of Mexico so expect much more vibrant colouring through the rest of the Mexican season – another 10-12 weeks and maybe longer. Fruit is tending large. Conversely California is just starting into their Star Ruby season, with fruit tending small.
It’s time to replace some of your rack space away from where you would normally keep strawberries, grapes and a large melon display to a seasonal onslaught of the best citrus of the year. Most organic producers are seeing good volumes this year – organic production seemed to have been better than conventional after the awful drought – mulching, compost and cover-cropping all hold water. But you can expect more choice grade fruit this year with intense heat having created some loss of skin appeal – but still great on the inside. We expect to be listing at least 10 varieties of specialty fruit over the next few months – the full range of tangerines, clementines and all their derivatives – many of which have become as popular as the historic big-sellers over the past couple of years. Watch for big demand this year for Tangelo as the trend to puff-skinned (easy-peel) fruit continues to grow. Perennial favourite Cara Cara’s are now going into full harvest mode and prices should come off after the holidays, if not before.
Lemons and limes are stable, and we’re also seeing good supply of Buddha Hands this year. Those are worth buying for no other reason than slowing people down in the aisle to stare at their beauty. Really just for cooking, it’s amazing how much zesty flavour you can add to any desert with just a scraping of one finger. Meyer lemon production will start to ramp up as more and more fruit is turned on by cooler nights across all of California.
On the tropical front, it seems that there is more consistent supply of pineapple coming on, with more producers converting to organic in the far southern states of Mexico. Costa Rica has always been the prime production area, but there are consistent issues with weather, port strikes, inconsistent shipping and then moving fruit from Florida across the continent. Mango pricing will start to drop quickly with the first Peruvian fruit arriving in the market earlier than ever. We talked about this a few days ago with Ecuador unloading the last of their fruit as the first Peruvian arrives. Our direct program starts in 3 weeks. The days of the $8 a case mango is long gone – With tight supply this year – a direct effect of El Nino – much higher price expectations from producers, and a crumbling Canadian dollar expect prices to be much higher, both for conventional and organic, but we’re still expecting the same sales growth year over year. People are still going to buy mangos!
Green beans continue to be available at very promotable prices, and happy that most of our listings this year are Fairtrade. We’re hoping production will increase out of Baja and southern Sonora as our current supply is coming from desert growers who are feeling the effects of a cool down – overnight temperatures for Rico and Divine Flavor are dropping close to freezing at night, and daytime highs are struggling into the 20’s.
We’re not sure where broccoli and cauliflower prices are going to go – there is a drop in markets this week, with growers down as much as $14 a case. That’s more likely a reaction to pre-Christmas sales which were likely hampered with extremely high prices over the past few weeks – but that drop could turnaround quite quickly with much colder temperatures across southern growing areas slowing production on young fields.
This picture, taken yesterday morning near Yuma may explain part of the problem that California growers are experiencing across all desert growing regions – stuff just doesn’t grow when it’s covered in ice. Why are they irrigating? Underground water in those regions ranges from 8 – 14C and spraying warm water on fields keeps soil warmer, and many plants do better enshrouded in ice and insulated at 0C than being exposed to dry wind and sub-freezing temperatures. It seems weird, but it works. On the other hand, we have unlimited supply on well-priced high-quality broccoli from central Mexico and can keep our prices shielded a bit. Same situation with celery, where coastal growers are wrapping up and desert crops are suffering, but strong supply for us from Agrofresco.
Brussels Sprouts are a bit of a disaster this year, with much lower production in typical growing areas in Salinas, a very late start in the desert, and cool temperatures. We were hoping to have a much bigger crop from Agrofresco, but it’s been cool in Guanajuato as well, with much more rain than normal, and we’re just starting harvest next week – too late for the holidays. We had a mountain of Romanesco this time last year, which was a great hit for Christmas dinner, but production is delayed this year from Capay, so we have a fraction of last years volumes, and quite a bit more spendy as well – but it does exist! Cauliflower production has been suffering for the last few weeks in all areas, although that will likely change as the weather warms – cauli needs far more heat units than broccoli. Long range forecasts have temperatures across North America above normal for the next 2 weeks, except for southern California and Arizona, where they are predicted to be a few degrees colder than normal, so we will see how this pans out. Speaking of warm – the shorts and flip flops will be out in Montreal this week, with a high temperature of 16C forecast for Christmas Eve – a mere 8C above their previous record. It’s just a one day event, but somewhat staggering!
Supply on bunched carrots continues to be OK, but not outstanding by any means, and prices are at seasonal levels, although exaggerated about $8-10 over last year because of currency differences. On the other hand, supply of table and juice carrots is entering into dangerous territory with supply decidedly lower from most California growers, so you should expect to see rising prices over the next month and potential supply gaps. This is a combination of smaller plantings (drought related,) cooler temperatures for current harvests and slow growth on new fields.
Cucumber prices are on the march with reports in now that some fields from Los Mochis south to Culiacan, especially higher in the hills were frost-nipped. We heard last week that the increase was more to do with truck delays related to snow on mountain passes to the south (which are rare but not weird,) but that was wrong info – it was actually really cold. This won’t affect English cukes, which are all grown under glass or in shadehouses in warmer areas. Most field cukes are grown, obviously, in the field, and on land higher up that is cheaper and has more water, and colder. Tomato prices are inching upwards – and will continue to climb while it stays cool and until Baja comes on with larger numbers.
Some crops are stable – especially chard and kale, and things should improve on fennel, cilantro and parsley over the next couple of weeks, but expect continued high prices on leaf of all kinds. Also expect a small price increase on salad in January – the margins in this very competitive category are very small and a change of 9% in currency over the past 3 months is taking its toll, so a correction is inevitable.
Roots are stable (besides the upcoming carrot issue) with strong supply of potatoes, onions, beets and turnips.
We will talk again briefly next week if there are any new developments!
Have a great holiday!