(UPDATED COVERAGE, 3 p.m.) A massive winter storm that dumped a foot or more of snow on parts of the Midwest Christmas week affected some corners of the region’s fresh produce industry, but for the most part, it was business as usual.
The Kansas City area and the cities within truck delivery distance of it were among those hit hard, said Scott Danner, chief operating officer for Liberty Fruit Co., Kansas City, Kan.
“Basically, sales have fallen off the face of the Earth,” Danner said Dec. 28.
Demand followed an arc typically to such extreme weather events, Danner said. In the three days leading up to the storm, sales spiked as customers stocked up in anticipation of the storm. During and after it, they plunged.
Still, Danner expected things to return to normal at Liberty by about Dec. 30.
Despite the debilitating snow and ice in much of Liberty’s distribution area, the company was able to make deliveries to all of its customers, including hard-hit areas south of Kansas City (Oklahoma City) and north (Omaha).
“We didn’t miss a beat,” he said.
Because of the storms, some trucks carrying vegetables from California and Florida were late arriving at Detroit-based wholesaler Ram Produce Distributors LLC, some by 24 hours, said Mike Badalament, salesman.
But Detroit itself was not hard-hit, and disruptions to business were minimal, Badalament said.
“Knock on wood, it’s been pretty good for this time of year,” he said. “Nothing huge — a couple of inches here and there.”
The Chicago metro area received between 6 and 12 inches of snow, but business wasn’t affected for wholesaler Strube Celery & Vegetable Co., said president and chief operating officer Dave Watson.
“We had quite a bit, but it’s fairly normal for this time of year,” he said.
Five or six inches fell on Des Moines Christmas Eve, said Brendan Comito, chief operating officer of Norwalk, Iowa-based Capital City Fruit Inc.
While that wasn’t enough to slow business down in Des Moines, Capital City does have customers to the west that were hit significantly harder, Comito said.
Fortunately, the company had no deliveries scheduled for Christmas Day, and no deliveries to the west on Dec. 26. By Dec. 27, roads were cleared for normal deliveries to the west, he said.
“The timing worked out pretty well,” Comito said.
On the supply side, a couple of trucks were late coming into Capital City, but the company suffered “no major product outages,” Comito said.
Potato growers in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota also benefited from good timing, said Ted Kreis, marketing director for the Northern Plains Potato Growers, East Grand Forks, Minn.
“Shippers weren’t open Friday, Saturday or Sunday, and by Monday things were OK,” he said. “It had little or no effect.”
Some parts of the Midwest, meanwhile, escaped the storm’s wrath almost entirely.
“We’ve been fortunate — it just rained in St. Louis,” said Mike O’Brien, vice president of produce for Schnuck Markets, St. Louis. “We had some late trucks, but that’s about it.”
Distributors in the Northeast reported few disruptions.
Though he had to pay a bulldozer operator to remove a mountain of snow in front of his market stall, Carlos Garcia, general manager of the New York-based Krisp-Pak Sales Corp., said he didn’t hear of any delivery problems encountered by distributors on the Bronx-based Hunt’s Point Terminal Market.
If the snow caused any problems, it would have likely affected receiving product from the West, Garcia said.
“There were more problems with transportation as far as the holiday schedule,” Garcia said. “A lot of truckers down south and out west wanted to be home for Christmas, so they didn’t want to take loads. They wanted to rush in and get here and get home for Christmas, when we wanted them here on Sunday.”
Though a few items came in late, any delays, Garcia said, didn’t last long.
In Philadelphia, the heavy snows disrupted local customers’ business more than produce deliveries, said Pete Storey, administrative assistant and salesman for Quaker City Produce Co.
Storey said the Philadelphia Regional Produce Market removed snow quickly, so trucks had little problems getting out and that the storms didn’t delay West Coast deliveries much.
“With the snow coming from the mid-South, I’m sure some guys got held up coming across,” Storey said. “But for the most part, it hurt a lot of the customers around here who weren’t shoveled out, where the city hadn’t plowed the streets. A lot of our customers couldn’t get out of their places. Their little trucks had a hard time getting around. I’m sure others may have had their 18-wheelers stuck.”
Storey said the Philadelphia area received up to two feet of snow.
The Packer's Eastern Editor Doug Ohlemeier contributed to this story.