MARKET REPORT – JUNE 24TH, 2016
Many things to discuss today, some pleasant, some not.
First, a picture to share:
Yes, that is a bin of freshly harvested BC Apricots, which you can expect to see early in the week. That’s very pleasant news!
Starting from the top:
Avocados: With market prices extremely high, Mexican growers seem to have decided to push most of their existing fruit into what are very lucrative markets. There is an abundant new crop sizing up quickly, but there isn’t enough oil to allow harvest, which is currently set for later next week (3 weeks earlier than normal.) Bad news for us is that for the first time in many years, we will not have Fair Trade avocados after the end of the month as we burn through our most recent load quickly. Once those are gone we will be listing California Hass in 25# lugs – great fruit and actually less expensive than Mexican right now. Based on current predictions we will be into new season Fair Trade fruit around the 9th or 10th.
Blueberries: Not an auspicious start for the early Duke Crop with abundant rains and high humidity. The Fraser Valley received 20mm of rain in the past 24 hours, with showers continuing well into tomorrow. Most of the last of the Duke’s will be going to processing – just too plump and watery to harvest for the fresh market. Luckily we were able to stock up in advance, but expect tight supply until later next week when a forecasted bit of hot sunny weather should bring on a great harvest of later varieties.
Cherries: We rarely see this much rain in the Okanagan / Similkameen during cherry harvest. Of course that has something to do with a “normal” June weather-wise, and an abnormally early harvest (4-5 weeks ahead of schedule.) Growers are having to spend an enormous amount of time running big fans in their orchards to dry fruit. Dozens of helicopters are hovering over cherry orchards in the Okanagan, using their down draft to dry fruit as well. Luckily the rain is not being followed by high heat, so splitting is less of an issue, but there are some substantial losses. Growers in Washington are forecasting a loss of 1.4 million cases in the last 5 days, if that puts the tragedy in better perspective. Expectations are now that between the losses and the early season, the local cherry crop will be through the harvest cycle in 10 days in the South Okanagan and Similkameen, with the North Okanagan crop about to start and continuing into late July or a few days into August.
Apricots: Slated for arrival about now, harvesting was delayed and we don’t expect to see the first picks until Tuesday – those ones in the picture graded in time now ship Monday for arrival here Tuesday.
Peaches: We’re now about 10 days from good supply for the earliest BC crop, with tons of well-priced California fruit continuing to roll in. Yes, we do have BC Peaches listed – this is a small harvest of the PF1 variety – trending on 70.80 size. Plan on California product until there is ample BC Supply. Plums are on track to start about the same time as peaches, with Gold Shiro first off the block.
Grapes: Mexico has done shipping. Early California varieties have been somewhat scorched in the record-breaking heat of the last week in Huron and the Bakersfield area, so don’t expect big promotions or discount pricing for some time, in fact the market may go up for a while. Temperatures of close to 50C were reported in some locations in Huron– not good conditions for any crop.
Strawberries: What can we say? Watsonville just had a perfect streak of growing weather, narrowly escaping the interior heat wave, being just a few miles from the cool California coast – and just at the peak of the season. This is “truckload” season – growers nearly force you take a full load and offer outstanding pricing. So our price is outstanding.
Veg: While we are seeing some outstanding local product, the few commodities that we have to buy from California are in reasonable supply. There has been some loss on celery in Salinas – sitting in the field for 3 months exposes those earliest planting to a wide range of weather, with cold, rain and high heat all lowering quality expectations. Some producers have disced in their first fields. And there is a bloodbath currently in broccoli markets, with organic selling today at conventional prices and about $2.80 below production costs. Personally I hate it when growers lose money on a crop, harvest it only to recoup some of their costs, but primarily to keep their crews working so they don’t move along and not come back next week! This lower pricing will hit later in the week.
And an update on Fair Trade. 4 years ago, as many of you know, Fair Trade USA struck out on their own with their own idea of Fair Trade standards – what we call “Fair Trade Light”. It was disappointing for the Fair Trade movement to see standards lowered, with huge corporations certified, even if only a tiny percentage of their sales were Fair Trade product. We set a bar within our purchasing policy that we have continued to abide by, which fairly simply is that we only sell Fair Trade product if it is certified by IMO Fair for Life, Control Union, Ecocert or FLO Fair Trade –certifiers we have always held in high esteem. The exception being that we have only listed Fair Trade USA product IF, and that’s a big IF, we had a close relationship with the grower and had visited the actual farms to see for ourselves. And there’s only two of them we list.
And now we have another hurdle. Domestic Fair Trade. The North American movement for fair treatment of workers on farms or in greenhouses in Canada and the U.S. has been a big issue in our industry for a long time, and labour advocates have been very active trying to increase the living conditions of domestic and migrant labour, including here in BC, especially on the Coast. We have seen some small gains, but my feeling is that this is more to do with the over-all lack of labour, with farmers having to pay more and offer better housing and other basic rights simply to keep the crews they have. That’s what Domestic Fair Trade is about, and there have been certifiers active in the U.S. and Canada – the most notable being the Agriculture Justice Project.
Unfortunately, some companies have taken it upon themselves to create Fair Trade standards of their own, and are actively marketing their domestically produced products as Fair Trade. This just further denigrates a movement that has been trying to make things substantially better for small producers and labour in the Global South who live in poverty and have seen the back hand of the produce industry, in general across the rich Northern countries like ours. This is very confusing for the consumer to see California and New York product with a Fair Trade label and messaging. We are NOT listing any domestic Fair Trade product at this time. The standards being used have been developed by individual companies, not by organizations or advocates, with auditors then confirming that their own standards are being met, and often the standard is simply a replication of local labour laws. And isn’t that sad – if you pay minimum wage, keep kids under 14 off your payroll, and not force people to work more than 48 hours or 6 days a week, then you can call that “Third Party Audited Certified Fair Trade.” In essence, it should really say “Someone checked and we are meeting basic state labour laws and nothing more.” Shame.