(July 16) Leadership and board members of the Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association, are meeting to discuss collaboration in what may be the first of many meetings on the two groups’ roles.

In a statement about the July 18 meeting in Chicago, the associations said a merger isn’t inevitable, but several industry members at PMA’s Foodservice Conference and Exposition in Monterey, Calif., on July 12-15 anonymously said a merger would be discussed.

Six members from each of the boards of the Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association and their respective presidents/chief executive officers Bryan Silbermann and Tom Stenzel will attend the meeting.

Silbermann and Stenzel released a statement July 16:

“There is a one-day meeting of PMA and UFPA leaders scheduled for this Wednesday, July 18, in Chicago. This meeting includes six board leaders from each association, plus the two of us as CEOs. This is not a secret meeting, and we of course intend to share information from the meeting with our two memberships at some point after the meeting. The general purpose of the meeting is as follows:

“Both associations’ priority is always to deliver the best value to our members, and our volunteer leaders and staff have been talking about ways to do that better. We are now exploring ways to enhance member value through collaboration between our two associations, although there is no predetermined end point, such as merger. Rather, we are focusing on enhancing value to members of both associations and letting that guide our discussions.

“We hope this addresses any immediate questions, and fully explains the nature of the meeting.”

Declining to characterize it strictly as a merger discussion, the leaders of the Newark,Del.-based PMA and the Washington, D.C-based United said it was part of an established dialogue between the two national produce associations.

“It is an ongoing series of discussions that the associations have had about how to work more effectively together,” Silbermann of the Newark, Del.-based PMA said in a telephone interview. “This is not a meeting with a predetermined end point.”

Stenzel said that the six representatives from each board would not be identified.

“At some point after the meeting we will have something to say to the membership, but I can’t tell when that will be, and I can’t even tell you what it will say because we don’t have a specific end point in mind,” Silbermann said.

“I wouldn’t put too much stock in this specific meeting; it’s not the first,” Silbermann said.

It’s not the first time the groups re-examined their roles in the industry; Stenzel in late June said there were talks about a possible mergers in 1958, 1969, 1975 and 1995.