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Plentiful Supplies Ready for Independence Day


Retailers should be able to find ample supplies of fruits and vegetables for consumers with picnic and cookout plans for the 4th of July.

Here’s a breakdown of high-volume items for the summer holiday.

Cherries

Cherry season in the Pacific Northwest will be shorter than usual, crowding volumes into fewer weeks and fueling retail promotions in the run-up to the Fourth of July and beyond.

A rush of ads is expected despite a 4% drop in the crop estimate, previously 19.8 million boxes, due to warm weather.

“The crop looks to be 18.4 million boxes,” Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Domex Superfresh Growers, said June 1. “About 10 million of that will be in June and almost 8 million in July. Retailers will have to make hay while the sun shines. They’ve got to promote every week to take advantage of the sales opportunity because the season is compressed.”

“The estimate was down but there will be fewer selling and shipping days than last year,” said Brianna Shales, communications manager for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers. “We had some compression with bloom, so there will be compression in harvest.”

Large cherry sizing, peaking around 10.5 row, is expected, with good quality.

“East Coast retailers especially will pull volumes the week of Father’s Day for July 4 and Canada Day,” Nager said. “There will still be a couple more weeks in July to promote aggressively. Whether their measure is volume or dollars, that’s when retailers have to do it. Mid-June to mid-July is the peak.”

Stemilt, for one, will have dark sweet, rainier and organic cherries for July 4. “That’s kind of unique this year,” Shales said. “So we’re recommending retailers have their cherry festival around July 4 with huge ads on cherries and multiple SKUs.”

“Through July Stemilt will be active before tapering off in early August,” Shales said. “We usually go to the end of August. Everything is about 10 days ahead of normal.”

Berries

Blueberry production regions are expected to converge as the holiday nears, supporting promotions.

“We have a surplus of blueberries, especially for the Fourth of July,” said Kyla Oberman, Naturipe Farms director of marketing. “We’ll be going strong in the Northwest and that will be our first pick week for Michigan. So we’ll be able to supply locally grown blueberries for a lot of different places across the country.”

“The next couple weeks in Michigan will tell whether we’ll be right on time,” Oberman said June 1. “For the upper Northwest, with increased acreage and higher yielding plants we expect more blueberries than last year.”

In California’s Watsonville and Salinas district, strawberries were unharmed by the cool weather that troubled some vegetables.

“We are looking at peak volume throughout the month of June and into mid-July on everything,” Cindy Jewell, vice president of marketing at Watsonville-based California Giant Berry Farms, said June 2. “Now is the time to build that berry patch display and keep it there for all four berries. Blueberries are a little early out of the Pacific Northwest, and we’re in production now with blackberries and raspberries.”

“Watsonville-Salinas strawberries will peak the week before the Fourth of July, which plays well into filling out ads,” Jewell said. “Demand is there and fruit is moving through the system with no backlog.”

“Strawberries are definitely promotable,” Oberman said.

Weekly fresh strawberry volumes exceeded 7 million trays in May, roughly on par with last year according to the California Strawberry Commission.

Corn

Georgia sweet corn volume should be light through mid-June but begin increasing to promotable levels June 17 through the Fourth of July, said Geoff Taft, assistant sales manager of Belle Glade, Fla.-based Pioneer Growers Co-op.

The heat and rain harmed the crop and Georgia may finish earlier than normal but Taft said he’s expecting normal volume for the holiday pull.

“Retailers are pre-booking a lot of corn now,” he said June 2. “The Georgia deal is ramping up to be a good one and we should have plenty of corn for the holiday. We should have a normal good supply for the fourth.”

Most of the corn shipped for Fourth of July promotions comes from Georgia and Brett Bergmann, president and co-owner of South Bay, Fla.-based Branch: A Family of Farms, characterized demand as strong.

“We anticipate having excellent quality through June with peak harvest to ramp up for Fourth of July shipments (in late June),” he said in early June. “Barring any adverse weather, where we don’t get some blow-downs, we expect to have some good demand for the Fourth, the best corn holiday of the year.”

Watermelons

Retailers should expect ample Fourth of July supplies of watermelon.

Georgia should begin harvesting promotable volumes of watermelons by June 15.

Rain-caused losses in Texas, the end of Nogales, Ariz., deal and the finishing of central Florida harvesting should tighten supplies nationally and keep markets high until Georgia produces volume, said Greg Leger, president and owner of Cordele, Ga.-based Leger & Son Inc.

North Florida should finish by mid-June and Leger said Georgia growers planted more acres this season.

“Everyone’s waiting to see how this north Florida deal will settle,” he said June 2. “We (in Georgia) will have a good crop. It looks like we will have good yields. We need to get the product priced comparably so we can move the product.”

In early June, Autryville, N.C.-based Jackson’s Farming Co., was harvesting from Live Oak, Fla., and expected to begin Leslie, Ga., by June 13 and start North Carolina harvesting by June 29.

South Carolina should start by June 24 and Matt Solana, vice president of operations and supply chain management, said Florida and Georgia crops look well.

“We have good vine coverage and good melon sets,” he said in early June. “Retailers should expect promotional quantities from everyone from all three states as they transition from Florida to Georgia to North Carolina.”

Source: The Packer

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