If you are a supermarket operator, life is tough all over. A U.S. retail chain reports a $560 million loss in the third quarter, a foreign owned supermarket operating in Venezuela is nationalized, and Canadian supermarkets have to endure Wal-Mart's smug superiority on sustainability.

Also, in this edition of Fresh Talk, we have several USDA FAS reports on supermarket develop-ments in Honduras, India and Argentina.

I posed a
question to the LinkedIn Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group  today:

Any thoughts on how Wal-Mart's new centralized sourcing model for global procurement will impact the fresh produce business?

How will it impact the quality of fresh produce procured by WM? Do you think consumers will see a decline in quality because of W-M's new strategy? What will be the strategic response to this move by other retailers?

One member wrote:

I think it will mainly be an issue with cost/footprint of transport and depth of offerings. Their food safety specs already keep out many specialty and organic items. This will just decrease their access to local and specialty crops.

To read the rest of the post, or to weigh in with your own thoughts or ask a clarifying question, be sure to join the group today.

Importers in Canada are moving to find alternative supplies of fresh  produce from Mexico, Spain and Egypt, says this USDA FAS report this morning.

Florida Freeze Driving Canadian Import Substitutions
Canadian importers are moving quickly to replace products normally sourced from Florida with substitutes from Mexico, Spain and Egypt. The crops seriously damaged  from the freeze include primarily strawberries, string beans and bell peppers.  Prices have risen for those three foods, but local marketers say it is too early to forecast price increases. Citrus fruit from Florida was mostly protected from the chill by water spraying and fires in the citrus groves and is not expected to be seriously affected. Some stores are  posting notices warning of shortages and higher prices. A one-pound container of  berries from Mexico was recently priced at C$5.99, nearly double recent prices for  strawberries from Florida or California. In particular the industry is worried  about the damage the frost inflicted on young plants expected to mature in a  month, affecting Canadian supply in March and April.

The tough U.S. retail environment won’t bounce back until perhaps the back half of 2010, says one A&P executive. The chain had a difficult time in the third  quarter of 2009.

From the story:

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. announced Tuesday heavy  third-quarter losses, citing changing consumer habits at supermarkets. The operator of A&P, Waldbaum's, Food Emporium and other supermarket chains  reported a net third-quarter loss of $559.6 million, or $10.50 a share, compared  with a prior-year loss of $14.4 million, or 27 cents a share. Sales for the third quarter were $2 billion versus $2.1 billion last year, the  company said in a statement, and comparable store sales decreased 5.8%. "The U.S. food retail market continues to face one of the most difficult and  challenging environments in many years which analysts expect will extend through  the first half of 2010," said Christian Haub, executive chairman of the board, in  a statement.

Buying local is more than just a buzzword
. At least that's the conclusion to be  drawn from this story about Hannaford Supermarkets helping local New England dairy  producers.

Here is coverage from Venezuela about the nationalization of the supermarket chain Exito.
From the story:

Venezuela has nationalized a foreign-owned chain of supermarkets, charging the retailer with price gouging after Caracas devalued the country's currency. On his weekly TV program, President Hugo Chavez on Sunday ordered the  nationalization of the Almacenes Exito SA, which has stores in Caracas and several  other cities and is headquartered in Colombia and controlled by French retailer  Casino Guichard-Perrachon S.A.

India's retail market
is just beginning to expand, and figures to draw significant  
interest for years to come. From the USDA FAS:

Also, find a retail sector report here from USDA FAS on Honduras

Here is USDA FAS on the Argentina retail sector.

For your average retailer, it is no fun when Wal-Mart takes the lead. This story,Wal-Mart Canada, Competitors, Make Nice For Sustainability  from Dow Jones, shows that it is at least bearable for several of Wal0Mar's competitors in Canada.