Back to School!…Already??

Yes, it is THAT time of year again! It seems like we just got finished with Memorial Day! Whoever said life is a BLINK of an eye was certainly correct.  Enjoy EVERY DAY to the fullest!
As Summer closes, buying produce  patterns change, as well. Families go from eating out while on vacation, to more of a schedule of eating at home, packing lunches, and after school snacks. This is where we start selling more traditional items for the Fall such as apples, oranges,potatoes, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and grapes. Its a good pattern to be in.
Plenty of trucks, and rates continue to slip every so slowly.
Long range weather continue to show seasonal norms, with mild temperatures in the growing areas of Salinas and Santa Maria, hot weather in the grape, melon, and tree fruit country around Fresno. No rain.

LETTUCE–no change here. The market is at a point where the shippers make money, and at the same time, retail prices can be at levels where the product moves well at the store levels. We should see this market hold steady this week.

BROCCOLI–not much change. Maine broccoli is having a effect on East coast business, to be sure. Some “delivered” prices for broccoli to the East is about the same as some West coast FOB prices! That makes it tough to sell.

CAULIFLOWER–while supplies at shipping point aren’t very heavy, business is slow. Retails have been set high, and demand has dropped. We should see business pick up and prices start to climb a bit by this time next week.

LEAF ITEMS–little change here. Romaine is still fairly active, although we are seeing a pretty good spread in price, with as much as a $5.00/box difference, depending upon the label and shipper. Green and red leaf are steady.

CELERY–no change. Market is flat, and there are some great deals out there on just about all sizes. Heart 12s and 18s are readily available.

STRAWBERRIES–most shippers are looking for business, while Driscoll is PRO RATING! Why? Mostly because the majority of berries can’t make the trip across the country to the East coast. It’s that time of year. Driscoll, while not necessarily “prime” stuff, is better than anyone else’s. And they KNOW it. As a result, they are priced $3-5.00/box higher than most, and are cutting back orders.

Not Much Happening

In typical August style, demand is sluggish and markets are just hanging in there for the majority of vegetable items out West. Lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, leaf, romaine, are all steady as she goes for this week, and most likely for the next several weeks. Lots of home grown items and backyard gardens are going full speed right now, and that has a huge impact on buying western vegetables and fruits.
Long range weather forecasts show steady, mild temperatures in Salinas/Watsonville areas and hot in the fruit country.
Still plenty of trucks around, and rates continue to drift downward. Diesel prices appear to have peaked out for the rest of the Summer.

LETTUCE–a fairly wide range in price, depending upon the shipper, with the preferred labels trying for a bit more. Still, there isn’t much business out there, and there can be some deals around this week.

BROCCOLI–not much change here. Bunch 14s and 18s are fairly steady, while the crowns are a bit more scarce, and show more of a range in price. Overall, good prices and quality are available in either Salinas or Santa Maria areas.

CAULIFLOWER–as expected, this market has come down. After the past few weeks of high prices, the high retails and lower priced local and Canadian cauliflower have taken their toll on demand for California product. There are especially some good deals on 9 size, which is an indication that the flower demand has slowed, and the product sits and grows in the field.

LEAF ITEMS–wide range in price for romaine and green leaf. Some shippers say they are light on red and green, heavy on romaine, while others say they are light on romaine and heavy on green and boston. In other words, if you can “shop” your leaf needs, there are some good deals out there.

CELERY–no change. Plenty of celery with good deals on ALL sizes. Celery available in Salinas or Santa Maria areas. Heart 12s and 18s available.

STRAWBERRIES–wide range in price here, with Driscoll leading the way. In fact, there is as much as a $5-6.00/box SPREAD between Driscoll and some other labels. Driscoll knows this is THEIR time of the year, and they price their berries the way they want. They also indicate they will have fairly light supplies for the next 3 weeks, or so, which means they will probably have strong prices during that time, as well. Raspberries and blackberries are also available, although quality is more of a “hit or miss” proposition on those items. Typical for this time of year.

August Dog Days

Product is really coming on now around the country, from California,  Michigan, Florida, Texas, and the local backyard gardens. With so much product coming from so many different areas, it is difficult to keep tabs on the markets. It seems no matter what price we quote, we’re WRONG! But, again, this IS August, and the dog days are here.
Long range weather forecasts show no change in the Salinas growing area, with mild days and cool nights, with no rain. The San Joaquin Valley, where the tree fruit, melons, and grapes are coming from, show highs in the mid-90s, and no rain.
Plenty of trucks, with rates steady.

LETTUCE–shippers looking for business, and prices are down, compared to last week. However, there is a range of $2-3.00/box for wrap 24s, depending on the shipper. The “preferred” labels are trying to hold on to the stronger prices, but are being drug down by the “mostly” market. Quality is holding up nicely.

BROCCOLI–not much change here. Bunch 14s and 18s are steady, compared to last week, and there are a few more crowns around, so that market is a bit easier. Quality is good either out of Salinas or Santa Maria areas.

CAULIFLOWER–watch out for this one. Currently, there is about a $5.00/box SPREAD in the market, but business is poor due to high retails set throughout the country. Once the overall market starts to come down in the next few days, there won’t be any stopping the slide. And, you DON’T want to be caught with high priced flower.

LEAF ITEMS–continued wide range in price on romaine. In fact, there is as much as a $5.00/box spread in the price. But, coming off a high market, that is usually what happens. So, make sure you buy with some protection. Green leaf continues to drift downward, and is much closer in price to its counterpart, red leaf.

CELERY–again, no change here, although smaller size 36s and 48s are a bit more scarce than the larger size 24s and 30s, and are priced a bit higher

STRAWBERRIES–lighter supplies throughout the industry, but the market is holding steady. Driscoll is currently pro rating orders, and claim they will have light supplies for the next month, so expect them to continue to try to raise their prices.

Enjoy the Summer

This Summer is moving so fast, that if you blink, you might miss it! July as about to close, and with August coming, schools will start, and Fall is around the corner. Enjoy it now! Stores are full of seasonal tree fruit, grapes, and melons, all the veggies from California, as well as local gardens.
Long range weather throughout the country show seasonal warm temperatures, along with occasional seasonal rain and thunder showers across the midwest and east coast. As far as the growing regions of California, Salinas will have continued mild temperatures and no rain, while the fruit areas around Fresno show continued hot, which is also normal for this time of year.
Trucks are plentiful, although truckers complain that “westbound” freight is scarce, which is a sign of our continued slow economy. Rates are slipping a bit for most areas of the country, but with fuel remaining strong, truckers bow their backs at lower rate offers.

LETTUCE–plenty of lettuce in the Salinas and Santa Maria areas. Shippers are looking for business, and prices are “negotiable” for liner and wrap 24s. Quality is mostly good, and it is a good item to advertise right now.

BROCCOLI–prices are a bit firmer, especially crowns, as they are a bit more scarce this week compared to the past few weeks. We don’t expect prices to go up too high, though. Supplies are coming out of Salinas or Santa Maria.

CAULIFLOWER–continued scarce supplies, and VERY active market, with prices $16-18.00 FOB. But, retails will now be adjusted, and business will slow. Shippers claim they are light, and that is true. However, demand will dictate what the market will do, and if prices are too high at the store level, demand will come to a screeching halt. So, we recommend that you only buy what you need, and leave the rest. Prices should start coming down by this weekend.

LEAF ITEMS–after a big run up last week on romaine prices, demand has fallen, and prices are dropping. The same for green leaf. Supplies are improving for both of those items, and things are settling back down. Red and boston are, and have been, steady.

CELERY–plenty of product, and prices are still down. Heart 12s and 18s available.

STRAWBERRIES–Driscoll has peaked, and their volume is down. As a result, they have been raising their prices the past 2 weeks. The rest of the shippers are also stronger in price due to Driscoll orders that are spilling over to them. Quality is still holding up nicely, as long as the weather in Salinas/Watsonville stays cool and mild.

Markets Making Stronger Moves

In spite of normal weather and slow demand, several markets are making higher moves this week. Head lettuce, cauliflower, romaine, and green leaf, in particular, are off to fast starts this Monday. There are different reasons for the price increases, but they mostly have to due with supply gaps, and those reasons vary, which will be covered below.
Long weather forecasts in Salinas/Watsonville areas show steady, mild weather, with no rain. The fruit regions in San Joaquin Valley show VERY hot weather, with temperatures in the low to mid-100’s, which are above normal for this time of year by 3-5 degrees.

LETTUCE–stronger market overall. Supplies are down, and that is planned by the shippers. Historically, they don’t expect strong demand in July, with all of the fruit salads taking center stage, as opposed to lettuce salads, so they don’t plant heavily this time of year. This allows them to keep the market firm. Quality is mostly very nice, with good size and weights.

BROCCOLI–not much change here. The market for bunch 14s, 18s, and crowns has been flat for the past few weeks, and we aren’t seeing much change. There are plenty of supplies in either Salinas or Santa Maria areas.

CAULIFLOWER–a wild start for flower this week. We are already seeing prices doubled to where they were last week, and it is only Monday. Some shippers are still trying to figure out their prices, as they don’t want to push things too high, and kill the market. So, there is a pretty good range in price starting out, with as much as a $5.00/box range today. Still, we expect them to keep pushing things as this week progresses.

LEAF ITEMS–romaine is off the charts this morning, green leaf very active, and red leaf and boston are steady. The romaine market is strong because of the pressure for romaine hearts that are contracted, which shrinks the carton volume. Green leaf supplies are down for some reason, probably due to salad demand and planting gaps.

CELERY–steady. Demand is only fair, as Michigan and Canada are going, so prices are at the bottom, or close to it. We don’t see much change in the celery market for several weeks. Heart 12s and 18s are available.

STRAWBERRIES–stronger demand and higher prices here, especially on Driscoll. Driscoll is pushing their prices $1.00-2.00/box over where they have been, and are indicating even stronger by this time next week. They have “peaked” on supplies, and look to be down 10%, which is alot of berrries for them, when you consider their volume. Raspberries and blackberries are available, along with organic straws and raz.

Salinas has it all

Now that celery has moved from Oxnard to Salinas area, ALL of the major (and most of the minor!) vegetable items are now in the Salinas area. Along with celery, this includes head lettuce, leaf items, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, and green onions. Many other items such as bok choy, napa, spinach, cilantro, chard, beets, cabbage, and various squashes are also readily available. The availability of all of these items makes loading trucks much easier and less costly, due to the fact that the trucks don’t have to cover as much ground.
Long range weather forecasts in the Salinas area shows a minor heat spell today and tomorrow, then cooling more to normal. The San Joaquin Valley, where the tree fruit, grapes, and melons pick up, show temperatures in the 100’s, which is typical for this time of year.
Trucks are available, and rates, while peaking last week, are holding their own.

LETTUCE–lighter supplies for this time of year are “planned” due to local backyard gardens coming on around the country. This is the shippers way of keeping the lettuce market firm, as it  currently is. That’s okay with us, because when there is a “glut” of supplies hitting the terminal markets, the market stays depressed and NO ONE is happy, except for the terminal guys who sell lettuce for nothing, and return even LESS than nothing to the growers.

BROCCOLI–no change here. Plenty of bunch 14s, 18s, and crowns, and the market is flat.

CAULIFLOWER–with Canada kicking in and supplying the East coast, there isn’t much action out West, and the market for 9s, 12s, and 16s is flat. We don’t see much change in the cauliflower market for a while.

LEAF ITEMS–plenty of red leaf, green leaf, and boston, and those markets are mostly flat. Romaine, which had been high and tight for the past few weeks due to quality issues, is now starting to pick up in volume, although we are seeing a VERY wide range in price out there. As much as a $5-7.00/box range! With that, we don’t suggest you load up too heavily, and wait for that market to settle down.

CELERY–as mentioned above, we are loading all celery in the Salinas area(along with Santa Maria), which helps with the loading of trucks. We don’t have the consolidation and transfer charges from Oxnard to deal with anymore. We will have supplies in Salinas from now until December. The market is picking up in Salinas where it left off in Oxnard–down. Good deals on all sizes. Celery heart 12s and 18s are also available.

STRAWBERRIES–this “mini” heat spell we are having in Salinas/Watsonville may hurt short term supplies, which isn’t all that bad. There have been a LOT of berries out there the past few weeks, so cutting supplies isn’t the worst thing that could happen. Overall, though, strawberry movement has been very good this year. In fact, it has been just about the top gross item at the retail level for most chains in the country. Raspberries and blackberries are also available, although those markets are pretty active.

Summer Heats Up

Now that 4th of July is behind us, we enter the peak season for Summer, and with it  bring rising temperatures, backyard barbecues, picnics, and road trip vacations. It also brings on the backyard gardens that will start producing tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, beans, squashes, melons, berries, and other assorted items. In these tough economic times, you can be SURE that more and more folks have taken up garden planting. ANYTHING to help defray the costs of “gettin’ by”.
Normally, trucks are tight starting around the 4th of July, and rates are at their peak for the year. We have seen rates go up, but nowhere near the prices that truckers and truck brokers had projected. Fuel costs have gone up, but are still $1.50/gallon or so LESS than last year at this time. That is about $1000 LESS for  a load of produce to the East coast than we paid last year. That’s huge.
Long range weather throughout the country shows warmer days and nights, with heat spells in various points around the nation. As far as our growing areas, we show steady, seasonal temperatures in Salinas and tree fruit country, and no rain.

LETTUCE–basically we are in “Summer supplies”, which show lower volume in Salinas and Santa Maria. This is typical for this time of year, because with the local growing deals and backyard gardens, shippers out West don’t need to have too much product come on and depress the market. As a result, the market is steady to stronger today, and we look for this to be this way all week. Quality is good to excellent.

BROCCOLI–plenty of supplies on bunch 14s, 18s, and crowns, and the market is flat.

CAULIFLOWER–the shippers pushed this market last week, and are trying to hold on to it today. With higher retails set, we don’t see this market being able to sustain the high prices. We suggest you only order what you need.

LEAF ITEMS–not much change. Red leaf and green leaf are steady, and the romaine market is strong. We have had real quality problems with romaine in the past few weeks, and supplies have dropped off. Romaine hearts, which are mostly contracted, are taking the bulk of supplies, and not much is left for carton business.

CELERY–Oxnard has finished, and we are now in Salinas and Santa Maria for supplies, and will be here well into November. This is certainly better for loading our trucks, which help to concentrate in just a few areas, instead of going from Oxnard to Salinas. The market seems to be going nowhere, and Michigan is right around the corner, which won’t help prices out West.

STRAWBERRIES–no change. The demand has fallen off, and the market is in the dumper. Without a change in the weather(either cold, hot, or rain), we don’t expect the berry market to go anywhere. Raspberries and blackberries are available, but are in shorter supply, especially blackberries.

Independence Day

With the holiday approaching, there is stronger demand for summer items.  Back yard BBQs are going to be more popular this year than in previous years mostly due to fact that folks are saving money and staying close to home for the holiday.  Strawberries and melons remain hot items, and tree fruit is no exception.  Salinas weather is improving from weeks before.  The next 10 days show temperatures ranging from the high 60s to low 70s, ideal temperatures for Salinas vegetables and strawberries.  Truck rates are still high, however rates are showing signs that they have reached a plateau and in some cases have slightly fallen in the past week.  The lack of west bound freight is still a main contributor to the high rates we are currently seeing.

LETTUCE– good supplies in Salinas and Santa Maria areas.  Demand has been decreasing as a result of high retail prices. Warmer weather will bring on more product this week and FOB prices should remain where they are for now and the near future.

BROCCOLI–plenty of product and shippers are looking to move.  Another problem is the fact that there is a lot more product out in the field that has yet to be cut.  This will create even more supply and shippers will be forced to blow out as much as they can at bargain prices.  Good growing weather that is forecasted will bring on some nice product.  Expect good quality and cheap prices as the week progresses.

CAULIFLOWER–supply is limited.  as the week goes on, however, we should see better volumes as fields are harvested. Many shippers have been sold out for the past few days. Keep in mind that the market was pushed pretty high last week, so it has quite a bit to come down.  Because supplies are gapping, shippers are going to end up killing the market with high prices, and will ultimately result in cheaper prices possibly by the end of this week.

LEAF ITEMS–not much change in the market with plenty green and red leaf. However, romaine is still very active.  Light supplies due to quality issues are allowing the shippers to keep pushing the romaine market.  Quality issues like internal burn, salt and peppering, have been seen.  Much of the romaine has been grown in warmer areas of the south valley, and quality issues have stemmed from unusually warm weather in these areas.

CELERY–transition from Oxnard to Salinas has been quiet and smooth.  Plenty of small sized celery, and larger sizes are harder to come by, which is normal during a transition.  It may take a week or two for the product to size up and fill the demand for 18 and 24 size.  Quality is fine.

STRAWBERRIES–Berries are slightly tighter this week.  Pro rates have increased up to about 30%.  Quality has been ok.  4th of July business increased demand over the past week, but things should be back to normal in a few days.  Get your orders in early.

Ed Brem
ed@producewest.com

Fourth of July Business Kicks in

This week’s shipments officially starts the 4th of July business push, and, if it is like the past few holiday pushes, we don’t expect things to be too robust. With the economy forcing many families to switch from VAcations to STAYcations, we should see more backyard barbecues, and less eating out. This could help with sales of tree fruit, melons, and grape sales, just like the old days. As far as vegetables are concerned, there will be more and more backyard gardens around the country producing various items such as lettuce, berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, beans, and other items, which will probably slow down demand for those commodities. We don’t expect much in the way of strong demand for the big volume items such as head lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and celery.
Long range weather in the East is KEY to what the demand will be for many items. And, looking ahead, most of the East coast looks to have pretty decent and dry weather(with an occasional shower here and there), and temperatures hitting the high 80’s to mid 90’s.
Trucks are available to most areas of the country, but  “westbound” freight is still scarce, due to the economy. In fact, we have heard that trucks have to deadhead from the Pacific Northwest to California to get loads. So, rates are approaching their yearly highs, although not as high as last year. At least, so far.

LETTUCE–better supplies in Salinas and Santa Maria areas, and the market is starting to drift downward at the present time. With the high freight rates, we are still seeing lettuce in the $18-20.00 range back East, so retails are still fairly high, and not too appealing. We could see this market continue to drift downward as this week progresses.

BROCCOLI–a fairly wide range in price on bunch 14s, 18s, and crowns. In fact, we are seeing as much as a $5.00/box spread in the crown market, depending upon the shipper and area. Again, we don’t expect this market to do much this week, so shop around.

CAULIFLOWER–there are some deals out there on 9s and 12s, and we could see this market slip more as this week goes. Keep in mind that the market was pushed pretty high last week, so it has quite a bit to come down. Because of this, we don’t recommend you buy too heavily this week.

LEAF ITEMS–not much change in the market with green and red leaf. However, romaine is still very active and double the price of the other two.  Light supplies due to quality issues are allowing the shippers to keep pushing the romaine market.

CELERY–no change here. Oxnard has about another 2 weeks, or so, then all supplies will move to Salinas. For now, if you want to load out of Salinas, shippers are charging $1-2.00/box to bring the celery up from Oxnard for cross loading.

STRAWBERRIES–there are PLENTY of berries out there, and more to come. With so much competition from tree fruit, melons, and grapes, we don’t see much hope for the strawberry market for several weeks. GREAT item to advertise.

Veggie Markets on the Rise

Ask receivers across the country how business is for vegetables at the store level, and “brisk” is NOT a work they use. In fact, overall sales are, and have been, generally slow. Still, shippers in Salinas and Santa Maria areas couldn’t care less. They see lighter supplies of lettuce, romaine, broccoli, cauliflower, and other items, and are raising their prices. Add to the fact the truck rates are steadily climbing, and delivered prices are anything but reasonably priced. With the way the economy is, you would think that most consumers are looking for the best deals they can find from furniture, to clothing, to food. When retails are adjusted to reflect the higher delivered costs on vegetable items across the board, demand will have to fall.
Long range weather in Salinas/Watsonville areas show below normal temperatures for the next few days, then climbing to more normal for this time of year. The San Joaquin Valley, where the tree fruit, grapes, and melons are coming from has been below normal for a while now, and certainly effecting supplies of just about all items over there. They ARE supposed to get warmer later this week, which will help.
Trucks are tighter, fuel costs are going up, and overall truck rates are climbing ever so steadily. We could easily see $7000 to the East coast by this weekend, as the 4th of July business starts in.

LETTUCE–shippers are all saying they are experiencing lighter supplies due to lighter weights eating into their supplies and yields. Also, mildew has been showing up, and that too cuts into their yields. Warmer weather later this week should help, but we expect a firm, high market most of this week, with delivered prices to the East coast upwards of $20.00.

BROCCOLI–lighter supplies are allowing shippers to push the market of bunch 14s, 18s, and crowns, something they haven’t been able to do for several weeks. We aren’t sure how long they can sustain this, but for now, prices are up $2-4.00/box over where they have been.

CAULIFLOWER–we thought when the shippers pushed this market up last week that demand would fall and prices come down. We were wrong. Cooler weather in Salinas has kept supplies on the light side, and kept the market firm. In fact, prices are actually even higher than they were last week. Again, with the higher retails out there, and warmer weather forecasted for later this week, we should see prices start to slip.

LEAF ITEMS–romaine supplies are very light due to lighter weights and mildew, so this market is very active. Red and green leaf aren’t doing much, but with iceberg and romaine so much stronger, this demand could spill over into the other leaf items and pick up demand there, as well.

CELERY–supplies aren’t overly heavy with California celery, so you would think the shippers would look to raise their prices. But, with the climbing freight rates, and celery being the most effected of just about all the major vegetable items, you wouldn’t think the shippers would dare raise their prices. They haven’t so far, but you never know. Personally , we don’t see prices going up for a few weeks.

STRAWBERRIES– just so-so demand, and prices are about steady. The cooler weather has slowed growth and color, so supplies are down. But, demand is only fair for berries, what with all the attention on tree fruit, melons, and grapes. Warmer weather later this week should help bring on more strawberries. Raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are all available.