Randy Hooper - February 6, 2013
Category: Produce Update

Lots of great fresh product arriving today – the avocado and grapefruit have arrived, after a 2 day delay at the Mexican border. The Quebec vine tomatoes should arrive today, after a 2 day delay – truck breakdown. Our first mangos from Agrovida arrive today, after a 2 day delay at port. Ah, the joys of importing produce. We’re also seeing shorts on green onions and cilantro crossing the Mexican border, after some bozo decided that putting bags of pot in onion boxes was a good idea, and now every truck carrying those commodities is getting a very, very, rigorous search. Our apple supply situation is changing quickly as the producers we work with (Harkers, Organics Plus and Sundance) have pretty well run dry. Lots of fruit now arriving from Washington as we make this transition. Blueberries have been a hot topic, with more Fair Trade fruit just arriving. Blood and Cara Cara sales are outpacing even Valencia as consumers are quenching their thirst for new varieties and excitement in this category. Pears are still strong, with no gaps expected between the end of the Washington season and the first Argentinean fruit that is already on the water. Vegetable supply is excellent on all fronts except for just a couple of things, with pricing now expected to come off quickly. The recovery is not going smoothly, with some markets still very tight, and others coming back quickly. For the last several years we have never been able to get enough black kale and prices have trended higher than other colours. Now, producers have reacted and planted a mountain of lacinato, to the point that it is now much more abundant than green. Watch for leaf lettuce, kale and broccoli pricing to settle out by the weekend, with most other green veg items still bouncing around daily. Organic onion prices continue to skyrocket, with reds now doubling up quickly – we’ve mentioned before about growers cutting back production in Washington because of over-supply.

+Continue reading New Fair Trade avocados are in!+
Randy Hooper - February 1, 2013
Category: Produce Update

There’s a truck a’steaming across the Great Plains full of avocados and grapefruit due here in a couple of days to get our inventory back in shape on all sizes – it seems that the mass consumption of guacamole for Super Bowl has worked its way to Canada, cleaning our larders out this week. Another truck is zooming across the south with yet another load of beautiful Nature’s Way greens, swooping in to pick up some fine Red Riostar grapefruit in Texas on its way. Now’s a good time to make hay on this green grape deal, with prices down again for the 4th week in a row. With Peru and Chile both shipping a range of varieties as their organic production increases, and first arrivals due in short order, our thinking is that the southern season may overlap with the early Mexican fruit – which basically means you can open up a permanent space lasting through November. Meyers lemons are really coming on strong with exception flavour and juice – we have listings from several of our favorite orchards. Still a great selection of pears and apples. We are expecting a bit of a squeaky spring on apples – once Washington is out we may see a hole, with Argentina and Chile both expecting a late harvest because of cold weather (hmmm.. doesn’t that sound familiar). Get ready for a great strawberry year. Prices are coming off, supply is increasing. After the cold shock a few weeks ago, strawberries get a little stressed and start pumping out fruit (maybe thinking they will freeze again). Even fruit in Watsonville should start shipping in a few weeks – way ahead of schedule. The broccoli market is loosening up a bit every week, but we gotta say that the Better World crowns are pretty darn stunning, and very well priced. The green veg market is actually in pretty good shape – supply wise. We’re having a hard time keeping dandelion in stock, but other than that, things are recovering quite quickly.

+Continue reading Sweet Success Strawberries are back!+
Randy Hooper - January 26, 2013
Category: Produce Update

Now that they have a much better idea of crop-losses from the freeze 2 weeks ago, some of the largest conventional marketers are now saying that they expect some moderate relief during February, but that the greens market won’t recover fully until April when the desert season winds down. Farther south along the Gulf Coast, the Sonora agricultural ministry is reporting that up to 100% of zucchini and cucumber production was lost in many areas. Producers are replanting quickly for both these short-season crops, but we would expect at least 40 days before the market eases. There has been good media coverage - many of your customers are prepared for sticker-shock. You will start to see the full impact this week – why? - right after the freeze, everything harvestable was getting sucked off fields when farmers were seeing huge prices, but now that reality has set in and supply is marginal at best, we’re seeing increases of over 25% on some greens loading late this week – both organic and conventional. You’ll see the Lady Alice apples on the list this week – another fluke natural hybrid, like the Ambrosia, Granny Smith and others that just turn up in orchards. The flavour is amazing – like Pink Lady and Honeycrisp mixed together. Seems an adventurous importer back east was a little over-zealous buying in on the southern green grape deal, so there are huge bargains to be had – pricing has now dropped again – they are exceptional! We’re into high season on mangos again. Weak pricing is creating a huge pull, and high demand for larger fruit. The exceptional Moro Blood oranges have finally started. These will be total flavour-bombs thanks to several cold weeks bringing on excellent sugar (brix) levels. The rest of the citrus category looks sharp, with Cara Cara pricing coming off. We have a great deal for you on these. Green beans continue to be a highlight on the veg front, with pricing not impacted – in fact, quite normal.

+Continue reading It is the prime time for citrus fruit+
Randy Hooper - January 23, 2013
Category: Produce Update

Expect to see some changes on the apple front. We warned earlier that the awful rain and hail storms experienced during the local apple harvest had reduced supply by 20 – 25%. Add in the fact that the Eastern US and Canada lost up to 80% of the harvest because of frost damage at pollination time. Washington had a bumper crop, although 10% or more wasn’t harvested because of a lack of harvest labour, but they have seen huge draws from the East. Bottom line is that some varieties are thinning out quickly – we have had to move some purchasing south already – starting with Grannys and the unique Lady Alice – and Washington shippers, who would normally be slowly lowering prices across the board are, instead, creeping up, with end dates 2 – 3 months earlier than normal. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed that the S. American crop is large, despite the fact that for the third year in a row intense heat is reducing the finished sizes of Gala apples. The fruit category is, of course, dominated by apples, pears, mangos and citrus this time of year.

+Continue reading Lady Alice apples arrive Thursday!+
Randy Hooper - January 16, 2013
Category: Produce Update

We’re just back from 5 days in the frozen south. Here’s a brief rundown of where the produce world is at this morning. Yuma / Imperial – several nights with temperatures as low as -6 in some valleys near Yuma. 24ct celery being harvested as 36’s with all outer leaves trimmed. Iceberg lettuce wiped out. Romaine being harvested and cut to hearts. Conventional lettuce at the farm $28/cs. Mexicali Valley – broccoli and broccolini OK, salad mix and lettuces likely recovery in 2-3 weeks. Spinach flat and brown. Leeks OK. Green onions – epidural damage and browning tips – supply weak with extra trimming and grading required. Our projects took quite a hit, with most crops decimated. We stripped all the chard and cilantro late last week when the coldest temps were 0C. Lots here and the final cut will arrive in a couple of days. Our other fields were planted late for spring harvest and we only lost the radishes. All of this was expected. What wasn’t expected was colder than forecast temperatures in other areas. The entire Salinas region was hit much harder, with sub-freezing temps for several nights. Much higher humidity frosted everything, so there is substantial damage to lettuce and spinach, and a very slow recovery slated for cole crops. Broccoli planned for harvest early this week has been delayed 10 days. It gets worse. The coastal regions of northern Mexico is 600 km. long, from Guaymas in the north, to Culiacan in the south. Low temperatures, expected to drop as cold as 5C actually hit -2C for two nights. All areas north of Los Mochis, where we spent 2 days froze – 80% of production for the entire region. This is where all your field cukes, zukes, tomatoes, English cukes, eggplant, green beans etc. come from. Those plants do NOT recover. They are grown in shadehouses designed to reduce sunlight and lower daytime temperatures, but they do nothing to protect plants at night. What did survive will grow slowly, with less sunlight reaching the plants than field grown.

+Continue reading It is going to be rough in the produce world for a few weeks.+
Randy Hooper - January 11, 2013
Category: Produce Update

Nothing much has changed since Wednesday. Cold weather across Imperial, Mexicali and Yuma continues to stop all growth and damage crops. The same cold front is just sweeping across coastal California today, with record lows expected to bring production to a halt for several days on all green veg products there as well. Citrus producers are faced with temperatures as low as -6C for the next couple of nights. -3 is OK for most oranges, but below that it gets tricky. Every natural gas burner in the field, every windmill, and every available helicopter will be out overnight keeping the air moving and as warm as possible, and every over-head sprayer will be bringing up warmer groundwater as well. We will, as usual, keep you up to date. We’ll be on the ground tomorrow in Sonora through Tuesday to keep everyone up here informed. We haven’t seen much damage so far at our Ejido project in Mexicali, although we will likely lose two stands of cilantro. We have all our sensitive veg planted 15 hours drive farther south where lows will be a few degrees above freezing. Sorry about banana shorts this week – you can’t pick up the phone and complain to Canadian border services – but fruit is ripening and we will be back on track in a couple of days. Our Apromalpi Fair Trade mangos are now in house – let’s get this mango train on the road! Melons will now gap on some varieties, with only light amounts of Crenshaw and Honeydew for the next few weeks. The big push we’re seeing this week is Cara Cara navels – the cold weather for the last few weeks in California has really pushed the sugar on these – rave reviews all round! Murcott Tangerines – (the nicest tangerine we think) now available, as well as Kumquat. The citrus parade will hit the peak in 2 weeks when Bloods are in good supply. Green beans – once again some stunning product arriving – big 30# boxes, and now in a 15# split bag as well.

+Continue reading The cold weather blues+
Randy Hooper - January 4, 2013
Category: Produce Update

Ouch! Checking this morning’s temperatures and seeing -1c in the southern deserts and northern Mexico is not a good thing – and neither is the news. It has been unseasonably cold across the major growing belt straddling the US/Mexican border since dec 21st, with several frost days, and several more in the forecast. While there isn’t much damage with light frost (except to lettuce), and destroying spinach crops, volumes have been knocked back considerably with most veg now moving from an over-supply 2 weeks ago to thin pickings expected for the next 3 weeks. Prices on most items are up 20-25% today, with broccoli doubling overnight. Cooler temperatures farther to the south along the Gulf coast and Baja are also lengthening growing times which will impact price and supply on peppers, cukes, zukes and tomatoes – we're already seeing a bump up on most of these. High temperatures for the day are running 5 – 7c below normal in those areas. Port inspectors must have had time on their hands over the holidays, so we have a delay on banana arrivals while they poke around in our containers. We are listing Organics Unlimited as well, and expect to be light on BOS for the first ½ of the week. Ahhhh…the joys of direct import! Speaking of that, our first container of Apromalpi Fair Trade mangos will arrive at our door on wednesday. – and you can expect some significant price relief with the Ecuador organic season done, and all the fruit is large. We’ve dropped price on our final stock of tommys to be more in line with our expected pricing next week. Finally, our Mexican grapefruit program is back on track after a short gap – there was limited supply and a very lucrative market within Mexico, but an abundance of new crop has opened the door again. This is beautiful fruit, and well-priced. New load of avocado arrives on the weekend, and being later in the season, the fruit is sizing higher, giving us better supply on larger sizes. Lemon prices continue to fall.

+Continue reading Colder temperatures in prime growing regions in the desert.+
Randy Hooper - December 28, 2012
Category: Produce Update

Things are looking pretty good in the fruit department. Apple supply continues to be strong, with some deals to be had on bagged fruit. Avocado sales normally slid a bit in December, but apparently guacamole is on the Christmas menu now. We are out of 18’s but have good supply of other sizes, with a truckload of avocado and grapefruit loading today in Michoacan. The market price continues to be very reasonable, with Mexico having a huge crop this year. Expect the first of the Peruvian mango to hit the market any day. Our first container is due in about 10 days for what will be a 14 week run – expect excellent pricing. The melon market has tightened considerably with cooling temperatures, but reasonable supply from southern Baja. The real story continues to be citrus, with favourable pricing, excellent quality on all varieties and a great selection. Bartletts are done until the first Argentina fruit arrives, but it will be a 3 month wait. We’re also having to shop south of the line for some varieties as B.C. supply starts to thin out. Blueberry sales continue strong, especially now we’re into 6 oz. packs. The rest of the berry supply is very thin and spendy. Pomegranates have run their course – we expect to sell through in the next week. We’ve had an unseasonable amount of hard frost in the past week in Mexicali, Holtville and Yuma in the past week, with prices expected to react quickly to damaged crops and limited production. Cilantro and lettuce will be the first to react, and expect some purpling on your cilantro for a couple of weeks. We continue to get just stunning produce from Nature’s Way, with the first of their green cabbage due in tomorrow. We are STILL seeing lots of veg product from Cascadian growers in Washington and Oregon who have still missed any weather bullets (frost and snow). We don’t expect to be selling bunched carrots grown a few hours drive away in January!

+Continue reading Happy New Year!+
Randy Hooper - December 14, 2012
Category: Produce Update

Who the heck put Christmas on a Tuesday? Probably the worst day of the week for shipping outside Vancouver than you can imagine. Read our freight schedule information and you’ll see your options. We are loading heavily expecting some of you to be shipping your post-Christmas product as early as the 21st. We’re ready! Looking at last year’s ‘post Christmas’ sales, it seems that consumers took two distinct trends – the first was to re-gift their Turkey a few days later, with another round of celery, Brussels and yams after Boxing Day, and the second was a move to cleansing foods and lots of fruit. Draw your own conclusions. There has been a shortage of celery before the holidays for 3 years in a row, and it gets worse every year. Celery takes nearly 4 months from seed to box, and transplants went in late across the southern desert regions because the baking hot summer carried well into September – too hot for transplanting. So the demand from other growing areas sparks and supply is limited. We’re very grateful to Natures Way, who have come through for us 3 years in a row, growing at cooler ranches 6,000 feet up, in Nueva Leone – so we have excellent supply, and stunning quality. Other than celery, the whole array of fruit and veg seems to be in great shape as all the desert producers are in full production, with cauliflower, the other tight market back in good shape. Good supply of chard (18 ct) from our Baja organic program, with the first bunch beets slated for later next week. Mexican shadehouse crops are in high gear, with full selection of all peppers, eggplant, and all tomato SKU’s. OriginO stripped their pepper plants last week, and we have a handful left, and now they have stripped the last of the vine tomatoes, which won’t last long! Wet and cold weather continues to plague harvests for California citrus producers, but the cold helps to colour it up. Lemons especially, as prices continue to come off.

+Continue reading Its the Christmas sales week! Did someone says "brussels"?+
Randy Hooper - December 12, 2012
Category: Produce Update

We’re starting that ramp-up for the holidays, cramming our coolers with yams, celery and the widest possible range of root crops. Avocado sales continue to grow every week with consistent quality and that increasingly popular Fairtrade logo. We’re in a blueberry transition, with tapering supplies from Argentina, and the first from northern regions in Chile. We should also see a transition to larger 6 oz clams over the next week or two as Chilean production ramps up. Desert Valencias are definitely a treat this time of year – with plenty of juice and flavor. Citrus is a hopping category right now, and we’re getting ready for an on-slaught of more varieties every week. Pear selection is excellent but we will be saying goodbye to the last of the Washington Bartlett supply this week. Lots of pomegranates, with improving price points, even as production winds down. And then there’s those luscious pineapple – priced to please! Veg supply continues to be fairly stable, but just wait – with big pulls on greens over the next two weeks the market always gets a little wonky as producers juggle crop and price. The first chards from our Ejido project arrive tonight – we’re way ahead of last year and the fields look good. Expect cilantro to start next week. Note that the chards are packed in 18 count boxes – our larger boxes haven’t arrived yet. We continue to get late season greens from B.C., Washington and Oregon growers who are making up for a late start this spring. We haven’t really had any hard frosts, and nothing close to freezing south of the line. Specialty potatoes have been a total hit this year – we were a little worried that you folks wouldn’t make enough room for this wide selection, but we were dead wrong. We’re sure that consistent supply has made it worthwhile for you to dedicate permanent shelf space to these. Speaking of consistent – two winters ago, mixed mini sweet peppers sales rocked.

+Continue reading I yam what I yam...+