California Giant expands program

Nader Musleh has been promoted to executive director of the blueberry division for California Giant Inc., Watsonville. He previously was based in Chile and was general manager for the company’s South American operations. He has been with the company for four years.

Also at California Giant, the company is launching a program shipping blueberries from Argentina to Hong Kong and Asian markets this year, Musleh said.

In the past, the company shipped Argentina blueberries only to the U.S. He estimated that 80% of the company’s Argentinian berries will come to the U.S., 15% will ship to Asia and 5% will go to Europe.


Crowley continues cold storage

Miami-based Crowley Fresh, a division of Crowley Maritime Corp., is in its third season serving Argentine and Chilean fruit at its cold storage facility in Miami, said director Eduardo Campos.

Last year was a difficult season because bad weather affected the quality of the fruit, he said. This growing season saw more favorable conditions.

“The volumes are expected to be very solid,” he said. The third-party logistics operation offers product rotation and distribution for supermarkets or other buyers, he said. The firm handles blueberries from Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Peru and also helps Florida blueberry growers export product to Europe and Asia during the domestic blueberry season.

“We offer every single thing a shipment may need,” said Nelly Yunta, vice president of Customized Brokers, another division of Crowley.


Dave’s predicts volume increase

Dave’s Specialty Imports Inc., Coral Springs, Fla., expects about a 20% increase in its blueberry program this season, but in early September vice president Mike Bowe said he was not yet counting on a significant increase in the Argentina deal.

“Last season the weather was a major factor, and we are still not out of the woods because there are spring storms that could bring hail or high winds that could do some damage,” he said.

However, he said the blueberries he saw on a recent trip to Argentina looked very nice and had good size.

“Argentina is a little ahead of the normal season by about a week or two,” he said. “They do have some outlets other than the U.S., so I’m not sure we will see a lot of Argentina blueberries in the U.S. until the third or fourth week of September and into October.”


Fresh Results to pack to order

Fresh Results LLC, Sunrise, Fla., will receive at least half of its fruit in bulk pack to be packed to order in Florida, said president Eric Crawford.

“This is will improve our quality to our customers and also allow us the flexibility to pack whatever configuration that the customer demands,” he said.

The weather in Argentina so far this growing season has been ideal, he said.

“We are expecting excellent yields and quality, but the weather in Argentina is volatile, and all of this can change very quickly,” he said.

Fresh Results expects to receive its first fruit from Argentina approximately Sept. 15.


Giumarra forecasts ‘very strong’ deal

Giumarra International Berry, Los Angeles, expects a “very strong” blueberry program out of Argentina this season, said Tom Richardson, vice president of global development.

The company’s volume should be up because its primary supplier planted about 250 acres over the past three years in the early Tucuman region. Fruit quality should be excellent. Giumarra should be one of the two or three largest importers of Argentina blueberries to the North American market, he said.

The company ships blueberries year-round from growing area in North America and South America.


Naturipe increases 2014 production

Salinas, Calif.-based Naturipe Farms LLC is increasing its Argentina blueberry production this season, especially in Tucuman, the early district in the north, said Jim Roberts, vice president of sales.

“We’re doing that with our proprietary variety — Rocio,” he said.

The Tucuman region has become very strategic for the company and has enabled the firm to remain profitable because of the window in which it produces, he said. The region was shipping in early September and should continue until late October, when the Buenos Aires and Concordia regions peak. Naturipe should see a 30% to 40% increase in production this season compared to last, when crops were hit by freezing temperatures and rain. Industrywide, Roberts expected a 10% production increase.


Team Produce promotes assistant

Mary Diaz has been promoted from sales assistant to account manager at Team Produce International, Miami, said president Mike Parr.

Diaz has been with the company for three years.

Parr said he expects Argentine blueberries to start in mid-September and growers anticipate a good harvest with favorable quality.