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Market Watch

Summer 2020

  • NW Crop Update: There is high demand, short crop, or both for almost every domestic IQF fruit category this summer. Overall the raspberry crop came in pretty well at profitable prices except for growers for juice. Marion harvest was down. Blueberries seem OK but demand. California strawberries are way short (see “California strawberries” below. Looking forward to the concord crush in October, apple, pear, cranberry & pumpkin harvest and the continuing grape crush & kiwi & pomegranate seasons in California. Then the winter citrus season and looking over our shoulders south to Latin America for strawberries, raspberries & blueberries.
  • Raspberries: Feels like Mexico isn’t doing IQF much…at least good stuff… it feels like Chile is kinda discouraged…they apparently had a “challenging” season..and Interpack hasn’t heard about IQF coming in from Serbia…reportedly some retailers are looking at product out of Eastern Europe so…feels like the worm has turned for our NW guys. Just a few years ago with the juice buyers were saying they didn’t want any fruit at all and it felt like IQF prices were below the cost of production and Mexico and California and Serbia were threatening..and Chile was always there…today feels like a different world. Polybag fruit is in high demand. Subsequent to this statement Interpack received a report from the fresh produce world of floods that devastated Serbian crops and raspberry orchards. Over a thousand hectares of raspberry fields in Western Serbia have been lost.
  • California Strawberries: In early August things seemed somewhat bleak….not nearly enough fruit was coming in…way less than at the same time last two years. Field prices took an unexpected jump late in the game and for the first time ever some contracts had to be renegotiated. Suddenly in the latter half of August things turned around outdoing the weekly deliveries of the previous last two years…but still at only 318 million lbs short of 2018’s 399 million lbs year to date through the end of August…and 337 million in 2019. Also of note…juice stock for puree production primarily is behind the last two years but spiked the last two weeks of August with 17 million lbs delivered vs 8 million in each of the last two years…which improved the overall picture significantly….101 million to date vs 110 million last year and 103 million in 2018.
  • Mexican raspberries/blueberries: Reports from fresh market sources indicate producers of fresh raspberries and blueberries..even strawberries in Mexico…are concerned. Virtually all their exports end up north of the border and there are rumblings about potential US & Canadian government sanctions and private company boycotts due to allegations of “poor labor practices” including alleged violations of child labor standards and even “forced” labor and violations of anti-dumping laws. Overall demand is reportedly down and prices have declined. Banks are reportedly reluctant to provide credit to producers.
  • Boysenberries 2020: Even though cold storage holdings don’t look so good at least we had a crop this year and all our orders were filled.
  • Magdalena River mango 28°: Reportedly mango from India has been a big problem mainly due to the Wuhan virus situation. Volumes are way down and prices are up. People are covering with other varieties. Turns out it seems..hopefully..we will have enough Magdalena River until new crop in December/Jan to cover most orders that have been seen in the past. So unless customers see anything new and big coming we should be OK. We were thinking of committing to another load but it doesn’t look like the demand is spiking enough to get another one.
  • Apricots: Got word that the crop will be short. We are crossing our fingers that our orders will be completed and pro-rating won’t be necessary. Another classic example of why it pays to book and get in the pack plan. Prices appear to be about $ 0.03/lb - $ 0.05/lb higher than last year.
  • Marion blackberries 2020: Early indications things will be short…due to a confluence of factors…virtually no carryover, crop doesn’t look that great and not enough acres in the ground.
  • Michigan cherries: Looks like about a 50% crop for tart cherries and some impact on dark sweets as well. Prices for tarts look to be about $ 0.35/lb higher than last year and dark sweets about $ 0.15/lb higher than last year. Interpack is even getting calls from customers who get sour cherry juice out of Michigan and have been called to say don’t count on any this year.
  • Oregon strawberries: Things started up a little earlier than usual for the best strawberries money can buy …prices up... in some directions $ 0.03/lb but as much as $ 0.17/lb. All quality reports look very good so far. Interpack got a hold of some fresh Totems at our local grocery store and there’s nothing like em.
  • Rhubarb: Prices came out around $ 0.80/lb…about a nickel over last season.

Winter 2019/2020

  • Pacific NW weather update: Other than January when it rained here every single stinking day for over 30 days…it has been fairly uneventful. Growers seem to have escaped the winter with no damage of note.
  • Blueberry market concerns: Based on discussions at AFFI and subsequent inquiries there is clear concern among producers about where the blueberry market will go this year. At first the strongest sellers told us they expected pricing to come out near last year’s opening but not higher but then modified their impressions to an expectation of a lower opening. Also based on discussions at AFFI it appears some blueberry buyers changed their tune on what they were willing to pay for blueberries between the time they arrived at AFFI and when it was over..and you can imagine what direction we’re talking. Subsequently there is some consensus that the spread between cultivated and wild will increase this year.
  • Apple & pear: Interpack is hearing the pear and apple juice prices are rising as customers call for local supplies of juice as the arrival of off shore..i.e. Chinese…supplies are in question.
  • Marion blackberries: In the wake of a short crop last summer marions appear to be sold out with some puree & sieved still available.
  • Mexican strawberries 2020: Mexican Strawberry prices are up this year as the buying season begins, as much as 15%-25% higher than last year. With California having been short in 2019 many expect pent up demand to keep prices high. An early January frost in Zamora which affected plants that are not under hoops doesn’t help. One processor reports they expect the Mexican crop to be 20% down this year. Other processors think it could be average. It’s still early but the higher pricing out of Mexico is not scaring away buyers.
  • Concord crush: Due to the early freeze we had in early November the concord harvest was reduced. Concord is available however..and that includes New York concord. Prices seem to be about $ 0.50/gallon higher than last year.
  • Pumpkin puree: Pumpkin Puree is in high demand right now. The early freeze that affected the concord crop caused the NW pumpkin growers to lose portions of their crop, thus NW processors couldn’t pack all they wanted. Pricing has been going up. Supply situation on the East Coast seems to be better than on the West Coast.
  • California drought update: According to the California Department of Water Resources the snow pack is less than half of normal so far in the Sierras..but it is not over yet… since March & April often see “large storms” which could help. Also California reservoirs are reportedly looking good..Oroville at 92% of its historical average and Melones (east of Stockton) at 132% and Shasta Lake at 107%.

Fall 2019

  • Early cold in Pacific NW: Some concern about the potential effects on crops being harvested now and crops next Spring and Summer of early unusual cold temperatures here this Fall. Seems damage assessments to be premature and in the case of this Fall’s apple crop most of our apples, for example, were harvested before the cold hit.
  • Cranberries 2019: As harvest got going Interpack was getting contradicting reports. Some sources reported the crop was expected to be short overall and prices were expected to rise, with certain processors already committed for the season. Others reported there was a lot of carryover and "it looks like a rough year for cranberries". Late development: Wisconsin is projected to come in about 20% down from volume expectations this year due to unusual weather during the growing season. Pricing out of Wisconsin is expected to rise in the short term. Interpack knows of at least one Wisconsin processor who is off the market waiting for pricing to stabilize. Word is the Quebec crop is not faring well either though details are unclear as of this writing. Size has also been an issue, coming in on the smaller end in Wisconsin and also the Northwest.
  • Pomegranate problems: Sounds like pomegranates might experience a worldwide shortage this upcoming year. Crop overall is down, plus demand for fresh is up which is straining the juice market. In addition, the political situation with Turkey may complicate things.
  • Wild blueberries 2019: Turns out this year’s crop was "small" according to one Maine processor and they are sold out....except a good chunk of organic is still available.
  • Thornless blackberries: Oregon is responding to the demand for fewer stems and brambles in blackberries by growing more and more so-called thornless blackberries. There are thornless marions.....which is a "sport" of traditional marions (look that one up if you don’t know what a sport is..really interesting)...Black Diamonds and Columbia Star.
  • Pineapple market: Industry sources tell Interpack exports out of Thailand of pineapple juice concentrate are down "sharply" vs last year.
  • Hepatitis A - recall: Another a poly bagger of imported fruit. Voluntary Hepatitis A testing was done by the poly bagger..all results came in "clean".... then the FDA months after arrival in the US tested samples...which took months to complete...and months after importation and repacking into poly and distribution to retail stores a recall was instituted based on reportedly sketchy FDA findings. One opinion of what’s going on, "It’s all BS".

February 2019

  • New organic cranberry supplier in Oregon: South Coast Cranberries, a new supplier of Northwest-grown Organic Cranberries will be offering IQF fruit this fall. Northwest Cranberries are known for their higher brix and superior color. Contact Interpack to receive a sample and get in line for a quote this fall.
  • California drought update: Production ramped up the week ending May 12 as the last couple years but then took off suddenly with the week ending May 19th bigger than any week last season. And wow! Just in the week ending May 26, 42,431 lbs delivered to freezers. Another huge week!
  • Red raspberries: Seems California may be getting what they need...Biblical amounts of rain. Late update/post storm report: The three weeks of storms in California in January brought the rainfall and snowpack levels "to average or more" and reservoir levels are up. Shasta Lake is at 95% of its historical average. The Sierra Nevada snowpack increased from 70% of average to 105% of average according to AgAlert. Water District personnel are hoping for another two months of this. Some districts received, "a 50% supply" from the Central Valley Project last year and catch this...they are hoping 50% is possible this year. At least not 0 to 10%. Who know but maybe the California aquifers will finally begin to be recharged. One benefit of a good winter is that farmers pump less from groundwater which helps with acquifer recharge.
  • California strawberries: News from the fresh produce world that acreage in California was down 8% in 2018 but shipments of "trays" of fresh strawberries rose 10% over 2017. Acreage is expected to decline another 6% in 2019. Reminds us of the raspberry industry here where the number of acres appears to be dropping but yields seem to be making up for the decline.
  • Freight inside Mexico: Reuter’s reported mid January that farmers in central Mexico are having trouble moving produce including shipments to the US due to fuel shortages which have cropped up because the government has reduced purchases from the US. The Mexican government is battling thieves who routinely syphon it off from fuel pipelines.

June 2018

Totem strawberry field

Totem strawberry field in Washington State,
week of June 11.

  • Overall, crops are looking good. A lot better than last year. Rhubarb seems to be coming in well. New crop pricing is surfacing now... somewhat lower than last least partially presumably because the harvest is looking good. The strawberry season started about a week earlier than we figured just a month ago. Conditions the end of May into early June looks perfect really...hardly any rain but temperate...not too hot. The strawberries look a lot better than last year. Blueberries are done with the bloom in the Willamette Valley. Labor looks to be OK but still a cautionary tale.
  • California strawberries: Production ramped up the week ending May 12 as the last couple years but then took off suddenly with the week ending May 19th bigger than any week last season. And wow! Just in the week ending May 26, 42,431 lbs delivered to freezers. Another huge week!
  • Red raspberries: Cold storage figures continue to surprise us...We have been wondering why they are so high. Interpack checked into the figures to determine whether the West South Central region has shown an uptick in holdings over the last five years or so which might reflect an increase in production out of Mexico since a good percentage of fruit production out of Mexico ends up sitting in Texas for at least some period of time. Well sure enough as of April 30..over the last five years... the USDA shows an increase in cold storage in the West South Central region from around half a million lbs to over 2 million lbs this year and last year. This presumably would lead anyone to conclude that there are more raspberries in cold storage in North America at least in part because of new raspberry production in Mexico.

April 2018

  • Signs of the times – raspberries in cold storage: Virtually everything in cold storage in the US is more or less average or down...except red raspberries...which are at a 30 year high and significantly higher than last year. Go figure.
  • Pomegranate alert: Seems the crop in Turkey wasn’t all that good this season and pricing looks to be going up. There is talk about getting covered.
  • Signs of the times – decline of Calif citrus industry: Valencia orange production in California is reportedly expected to continue the decline...this year by 14% according to the California Dept of Ag. Acreage was reportedly declined from 47,000 acres ten years ago and to today’s 30,000 acres.
  • Screwball cranberry industry: Reportedly the EU is discussing a 25% duty on US cranberry imports in response to recent new tariffs on steel and aluminum into the US. One can’t help but wonder why the EU would pick on cranberries of all industry that is already in distress. Could it be because reportedly there is already a long-standing import duty on cranberries and cranberry juice coming from the EU into the US?

February 2018

  • Shortages cropping up: Just not as much uncommitted fruit and juice and trucks to move fruit out there as we've enjoyed over the last few years. Shortages keep cropping up....white grape, pomegranate, cultivated blueberries, cranberries....conventional and organ-ic, apricots, boysenberries, evergreen blackberries, super-sweet corn, Oregon strawberries, clarified lemon to name some notable items on the short list. One packer had carryover of sugar pack tart cherries so didn't pack any this summer. There are major exceptions....such as red raspberries. Major issues with trucking continue with an industry that is in the midst of significant restructuring.
  • Mexican strawberries: Quoting is underway and commitments are being made for the upcoming crop. Reports of freezing temps in Michoacan do not bode well for the season...even though freezes in January are normal.
  • Chilean raspberries: The season and the market seems to be slow to develop this year. We're watching this one with great interest.
  • Scuttlebutt from the NW Food Processors Convention: Some processors are expecting black raspberry prices for straight pack and IQF to remain high but puree is still unclear with still some carryover reportedly out there. Acreage appears to be holding steady. There is still some Totem acreage but the steady decline continues. The Columbia Star blackberry variety might be the variety of the future..a thornless variety that tastes good, yields well and isn't as winter susceptible as the most famous marionberry. Processors are trying to move uncommitted inventories of wet pack red raspberries from puree stock to sieved, seedless and even straight pack. IQF seems to be more in balance with some processors out of high end retail grade A whole. The cranberry co-op has apparently jacked up their prices for their frozen berries now that all known significant independents have been eliminated.
  • Blueberries crop report: Comprehensive figures regarding blueberry production this year are emerging and the numbers reflect what we already knew... that the crop was down across North America..both cultivated and wild...but what sticks out is the numbers continue to show the fresh market gaining strength every year including this year...approximately 403 million lbs this year vs 384 million last year. So even with a down crop the fresh market total was bigger than last year! And almost all of the increase came from the Pacific NW which is clearly now the dominant growing region for cultivated blueberries.
  • Econ 101: Can't help but notice an article in Fresh Fruit Portal that Calavo Growers reported more good news with a 15% increase in profits for fiscal year 2017 and expects "double digit revenue growth in 2018 even after accounting for any fruit loss from the recent California fires". Once upon a time Calavo fought and fought to "get" the government to protect them and keep out foreign..i.e. Mexican...avocados (the "birthplace" of the avocado) but after endless efforts the wall came down and Mexican avocados were let in....but did the American avocado industry suffer? Seems fact seems quite the opposite has been the result...the avocado industry here has thrived. If only the big cranberry co-op which holds the cranberry industry by the neck...literally strangling it to its economic demise....growers left and right declaring bankruptcy and the co-op, which "owns" Washington DC, getting the government to force growers to literally dump increasing percentages of their crops this year and next...would only follow Calavo's lead and let go...they would most assuredly see their growers prosper.

December 2017

  • Rhubarb: Interpack's #1 processor/supplier of IQF ½" cut rhubarb says they are sold out. Some IQF diced seems to be available however.
  • Strawberries: Final numbers out of California..down about 16% from the last two years. Interpack continues to hear the prediction that Mexican prices will be higher than last year. Seems there's been a recent run on what's left of the organic stocks. New crop Turkey & Mexico are next....then California right behind them.
  • White Grape Market: Some customers are asking why prices for white grape are up. Further to last month's report re one of the worst crops in years with yields down about 32%.... a report published by Spend Matters in late November indicated raisin prices...which compete for Thompson seedless grapes with the juice processors... were up about 50%.
  • Cranberry industry "bailout": Further to our September report about the mandatory USDA set aside and our November report re the USDA order to literally dump 15% of this year's crop and 25% of next year's crop: the "Twilight Zone" continues for the cranberry industry with the Seattle Times reporting cranberry processors have requested the OK to utilize the "excess fruit" as fertilizer and were "anxiously awaiting government approval."
  • Wild Blueberries: The AP reported November 10th production in Maine dropped to 65 million lbs vs last year's 102 million lbs. Overall wild production...Quebec being the biggest producer... was expected to be under 300 million lbs...a drop of more than 100 million lbs from last year's 400 million lbs and somewhat lower than 2015 and 2014. "Lack of rain and lack of farming effort" motivated by low prices were cited as two causes for a smaller crop.
  • Trucking Alert: Further to last month's Trucking alert – Part I – Electronic Logs Mandate: One trucking company told Interpack, "500 miles a day will be the new standard (if they don't get held up at shippers/receivers for long) where as of now drivers are doing 600-700 miles per day." The effects of this new mandate seem extraordinary. Carriers are telling us the total cargo they can move per week as a company is dropping drastically so they are currently in the process of determining which customers, which traffic lanes and type of business...LTL vs straight loads for example... they will continue to serve and which ones they will have no choice but to drop. Another trucking company told Interpack, "We are seeing many owner operations, trucking companies closing shop due to this because they will not be able to pick up as many loads each week which will result in less money for them. The carriers that do stay around will be demanding higher rates due to the fact that they will not be able to haul as many loads each week." Yet another trucking company told Interpack, "We will shy away from facilities that hold drivers up for extended periods of time or are extremely rigid with available appointment days/times because the drivers will not be able to work around that the way they have in the past." Another trucking company told Interpack, "We have adjusted our routing to accommodate this pending change." Freight rates are expected to be affected. Team drivers are expected to be in very high demand, and some believe will cost a major premium to secure. Some believe it is unlikely for anything more than 2 to 3 picks to be of interest on team loads. A likely new trend will be for single drivers to load product and pass off to a team. Solutions? We are asking whether planning further ahead will help shippers and it seems it is not a cure and may not always work. One company contacted by Interpack told us they are looking into creating their own in-house trucking company to support their core business. Some are looking at intermodal..i.e. truck on rail...for cross country shipments. Other factors influencing the availability of trucks are weighing on the industry...such as the average age of truck drivers and the lack of young people becoming drivers and the general economy...increased activity at cold storages across the country seem to be at capacity so getting appointments to pick up and deliver is getting more and more difficult.

Pacific Northwest crop

August 2017

  • Reports of short crops have come in all over the Pacific NW and we've seen seriously delayed pricing. It is August and many blueberry processors have not sold a single lb yet. One Oregon blueberry processor announced a 50% pro rate for all regular customers. Many processors are off the market as of this posting. Black raspberries were a challenge...somewhere around half a crop....prices for straight pack and IQF are up....puree is down due to a carryover. Blackberries look to be about a half crop and prices are coming out approximately $ 0.40/lb higher than last year. The red tart cherry crop in Oregon is about 40% of average and new crop here is sold out. The dark sweet cherry crop looks good but one processor is sold out. Unclear at this writing how sales are going for red raspberries but the overall crop was definitely down and yet IQF prices are also way down.
  • California crop: Apricots did much better this year but are sold out...except maybe apricot puree 32° and some single strength puree are still available. Peaches seem to be on an even keel.
  • Dark tart cherries - Europe: Received the following from a customer...asking about our cherries, "Poland has had a crop failure and their price has escalated."
  • Cold storage figures: Looks like US cold storage comparisons with last year are misleading because the crops are so much later than last year....In a month or two we'll have a better feel. For example last month we reported blackberries, "30 year high and 22% higher than last year" and this month, "Above average and 32% lower than last year" mainly because last year was early and this year is late.
  • California strawberry market: We've seen dramatic declines in strawberry prices in California this year...both conventional and organic.
  • Mango crop – Mexico: Things are winding down in Mexico. So far the season seems to have turned out pretty well.
  • Apple market: Interpack received numerous indications of shortage over the last month or so...for apple juice and frozen apples and sure enough apple prices have spiked. Juice concentrate prices, however, seem to not have been affected. Some see this as temporary and that prices should return to normal come new crop. The cause seems to be at least partially because the 2016 crop had above average quality so the percentage of apples that are ending up as peelers and juice is below average. The shortage was reportedly exacerbated when fresh packing houses switched to cherries. The USDA reported prices for peelers in April at mostly $ 140 - 150/ton vs July at $ 160 – 180/ton and juice apples in April $ 20 – 25/ton vs July $ 60 – 80/ton.
  • "Clean labels": Interpack continues to hear reference to "clean labels".....that customers want ingredients that allow them to have "clean labels" on their products. Seems that the definition of what constitutes a "clean label" is anyone's guess. Some believe it means, "all natural" and/or "non-GMO" and/or "no additives or preservatives" and/or "sustainably produced" and/or "minimally processed" and/or "made with real ingredients" and/or "a small number of simple, easy to understand ingredients" and/or "no added chemicals" and/or "healthy". Whatever a "clean label" seems consumers want them.

Pacific Northwest crop update

June 2017

  • Snowpack is above normal so the irrigation water supply for tree fruit in the Yakima Valley looks good. Weather has been cooler and wetter than usual so timing of the crop looks to be closer to normal vs last year's early start.
  • The dark sweet cherry crop looks big. With some dark sweet cherry inventory carryover and the look of the tree fruit crop in general price trends are expected to be horizontal or perhaps even slightly lower than last year's already lower prices.
  • Strawberries in Oregon look to start almost three weeks later than last year...a little later than average...but around June 10th.
  • Blackberry crop: most in the industry are expecting yields to be down from last year. Just how much will depend on the weather.
  • Interpack visited a big grower of rhubarb the week of May 22 right after harvest began the previous weekend and the grower reported color better than last year. The crop is two to three weeks later than normal and about a month later than last year. The same rhubarb grower also reported that there is significant damage to his blackberry crop.
  • Blueberry growers in British Columbia reportedly say the crop is 4 weeks later than last year. Interpack heard one of the big club store chains has switched from frozen cultivated to frozen wild blueberries for all stores in the eastern half of the country. So the weakness in the cultivated market is being exacerbated by what appears to be an oversupply of wild blueberries.
  • California strawberries: Production picked up in late April and has been going strong ever since. Through the week ending May 27 deliveries of Grade No. 1 fruit to freezers is slightly ahead of last year but pretty far behind two years ago. June and July will tell the story.
  • Apricots: Season looks to be set for a normal start...around mid June and finishing up very early July. Crop prospects for frozen bulk industrial volumes look better than last year.
  • Raspberry market: Word out of Europe is that their crop is down approximately 25% from either normal or last year...not clear at this writing...but down. Interpack received an April photo of a raspberry field in Serbia totally snowbound.
  • Organic...really? The Washington Post published an analysis by M. Jason Kuo, a postdoctoral fellow at the Mortara Center for Int'l Studies at Georgtown University, detailing the challenges faced by the USDA when dealing with fraudulent organic certification handled by third-party certifiers in off-shore countries. Interpack has received multiple reports of off shore origin certified organic food products that turn out to not actually be organic.

Pacific NW crop prospects

May 2017

Rhubarb in the field

Oregon rhubarb being harvested in late May.

  • Rhuburb is harvesting in Oregon and color looks to be better than last year. Yield expected to be average and price similar to last year.
  • Winter damage is starting to show up in Marion blackberry fields in Oregon. The Willamette Valley is over 19 inches ahead of average for rainfall and temperatures have been cool which also concerns growers. Don't expect a bumper crop this year.
  • Blueberries in Whatcom County are reportedly 3 weeks behind last year...which was remarkably early.
  • Raspberries in Whatcom County are showing signs of winter damage and a reduction in yields seems likely; no big surprise since last season was a record crop. Harvesting likely to begin after July 4th.....much closer to normal and weeks earlier than last year. Interpack is receiving reports that the effects of root rot in all berry crops will soon become evident.
  • The bloom and fruit set so far for central Washington cherries, apples and apricots is looking "strong" according to reports out of The Packer.