TAMPA, Fla. — Sales to export customers and cruise ships keep south Florida wholesalers busy.

Miami area American Fruit & Produce Corp., Opa Locka, services 33 Caribbean islands.

Marshall Glantz, American’s president of exports, cruise ships and business development and executive director, said the recession slowed sales somewhat.

“Each customer went down a little,” he said. “Those islands depend so much on tourism,but they’re still maintaining a good level. People on the islands have to eat too.”

Despite the slow economy, Glantz said American’s export sales have increased up to 20%, primarily through new customers.

Almost all of the overseas customers American exports to service retailers, wholesalers and foodservice customers, Glantz said.

The Produce Connection Inc., Miami, distributes to seven islands in 12 countries from Panama to the Caribbean.

Bruce Fishbein, The Produce Connection partner, characterized export sales as consistent.

“The Caribbean is chugging along,” he said. “The customers are the good customers, the ones that have always been the good customers. Maybe the money is coming in a little slower, but other than that, business is pretty steady.” 

Though it used to service more islands, the Jacksonville-based Produce Distribution Center LLC now concentrates on Puerto Rico.

The distributor sends produce in two weekly shipments.

Seth Movsovitz, vice president and part owner, said the business is competitive as the Produce Distribution Center competes weekly against other Northeastern wholesalers who also service the Caribbean.

“We service wholesalers servicing retailers,” Movsovitz said. “From what I understand, some of their customers are starting to dabble in foodservice.

“They’re feeling it as well and some are branching out into foodservice to complement their retail business.”

Movsovitz characterized export demand as steady.

The cruise ship business remains strong for south Florida distributors.

American services many cruise ships that call not only on south Florida ports such as Port Everglades and the Port of Miami, but also ports in Cape Canaveral; Tampa; Jacksonville; Charleston, S.C.; Mobile, Ala.; and New Orleans.

“We have been able to add a tremendous number of ships,” Glantz said. “They have done well and have maintained their business and capacity of the customers. They’ve lowered their prices, but in the meantime they’ve kept their ships full. With this season coming in, the ships will be full.”

S. Roza & Co. Inc. sells to purveyors that serve cruise ships from the Port of Tampa.

“I hear the business is really good,” said Steve Roza, owner. “They want the higher-end product. They want the top product.”