(April 19) Two forces in the northwest apple, pear and cherry deals — one organic and one conventional — have partnered to take advantage of increasing demand for organic produce.

Sedro Woolley, Wash.-based CF Fresh and Wenatchee, Wash.-based conventional shipper Columbia Marketing International announced April 12 that CMI expects to market CF Fresh organic apples, pears and cherries this summer.

Maureen Royal, CF fresh sales director, said it had planned to increase its organic program by about 25% for the upcoming year, but with the partnership, that number is expected to increase to 30% to 35%.

“We’ll be increasing our volume by going out and looking for more tonnage, especially on organic apples and pears,” Royal said.

Mike Hambelton, CMI’s vice president of marketing, said he expected CMI to ship about 350,000 cartons of organic apples a year though the partnership. CMI annually ships about 12 million boxes of conventional apples, he said.

CMI hasn’t had an organics program until now. However, it would provide customers with organics upon request in the past, Royal said.

REMAINING INDEPENDENT

Hambelton said CF Fresh and CMI market typically market to different entities.

The companies remain independent of one another, Royal said. CMI expects to start marketing CF Fresh organic commodities with the start of the cherry season, about July 1.

CF Fresh will maintain its Viva Tierra label on organic product marketed by CMI, Royal said.

CF Fresh is establishing a sales desk at CMI’s Wenatchee office with two permanent and one rotating employee. Royal said she will be working out of the Wenatchee office as organic sales director at CMI, and will retain her position as sales director at CF Fresh.

CMI and CF Fresh plan to share booths at the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association convention and All Things Organic show in Chicago on May 6-9, where the companies are expected to formally launch the partnership.