Bananas, grapes & citrus take a hit, new tool against HLB and the NY Produce Show

Year overview December 2017

December is always a busy month for us at Fresh Plaza, and this year was no different. Once again we visited the New York Produce show to catch up with all the latest in the industry and complete our annual photo report. 

Not all was jolly in the month of Saint Nick however, as banana production took a big hit in the Dominican Republic and higher prices were forecast for Ecuador. 

Storm damage after a hurricane hit the Dominican Republic

Bananas weren't the only victims this month. Grapes also took a hit, with heavy floods sinking production in Peru, creating a gap in the market which the United states hopes to fill. South African citrus isn't safe either, with a drought hampering production, and exports dropping.

South African citrus growers in the Western cape were worried the intense heat this month could hit quality. California citrus growers faced a different kind of heat, with a wildfire blazing through Ventura County. There was one little gift neatly wrapped to make it up to citrus growers though as researchers revealed new findings which could help in the fight against citrus greening. 

Dominican Republic banana production hit, h
igher prices Ecuador 
December is often times a month of reflection. Many growers in the Dominican Republic however, don't look back on the year too fondly. One example of this is BioTropic GmbH, who lost around 50% of their total crop in the Dominican Republic due to the damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Maria

Wind breakage in the organic banana plantation 

This could be good news for competing countries though, like Ecuador. According to Miriam Barona, CEO of the Futa de Oro company, banana prices are predicted to be higher at the start of 2018 in Ecuador. However, he said that prices were expected to stabilise by the middle of the year, with "the competition generated by the production of seasonal fruits in banana-buying countries, which also influences prices."

ASBAMA Banana Forum

December also saw the ASBAMA Banana Forum take place in Colombia. The highlight of the event was the announcement of Dr Anuar Escaf Mendoza, Executive President of ASBAMA, and Dr Felix Ospino Acevedo, Secretary of Economic Development (E), about the signing of a contract with the Governorate of Magdalena to provide technical assistance to 200 small producers of the Zona Bananera on agronomic management practices.

Climate effects southern hemisphere grapes, California provides
Just as with citrus, South African grape growers have been struggling with drought. The situation isn't the same for all growers however, as southern growers were taking it harder than those up north. This led to the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) predicting a 14% smaller table grape harvest in the Western Cape, falling to 287,000 tonnes. Table grape exports were also expected to decrease in 2017/18 by 15% to 258,000 tonnes. 

Vanguard's Chief Farming Officer, Kevin Andrew, assessing process in one of the Sweet Celebration blocks in Peru.

Out of all southern hemisphere grape growers, Peru may have met the worst fate this year. Growers in the country, especially those in the north have suffered through floods which destroyed many plantations. Current estimates are showing a 20 to 70% loss of total production

Despite the substantial drop in Peruvian grape production, US grape availability is sufficient as there are still considerable volumes of US grapes in the market. According to a USDA Grape Cold Storage report from Nov. 3, 2017, storage levels are at 13.6 million boxes compared to 12.6 million the same time last year. Given the numbers, California exporters are expected to fill the gap left by the drop in production in Peru

Heat hits South Africa and California citrus, new tool against HLB
Growers in the Western Cape voiced their concerns over the current drought in December. The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that growers have only 40% of their water allocation rights for the Olifants River. Excessive temperatures are also worrying growers, with a maximum temperature of 46°C recorded earlier this month. Growers are worried this could worsen the usual fruit fall around this time of year. 

California faced a similar situation to the Western Cape, as earlier heat this year caused a reduction in harvest volume. Growers in Ventura County had to suffer through a different kind of heat after the Thomas fire began raging through the county in the first week of December. The fire devoured twelve buildings used for housing guest workers by citrus producer Limoniera, but fortunately nobody was hurt. The current damage to citrus groves in the county are currently unknown. 

Thomas fire in Venture, California: Image source: @VCF_PIO 

Things were a bit cooler for growers in Valencia, Spain. Valencia saw freezing temperatures in the first week of December. While the cold took a heavy toll on kaki production in the area, citrus production is said to be a few weeks ahead. Producers therefore expect the season to finish earlier this year. 

Another huge story in the world of citrus was announced by Brazil and the United States. In a cooperation between the countries, researchers identified the molecule that attracts insects that transit citrus greening disease. Researchers hope to use the discovery to create more effective traps against the pests that spread the devastating disease. 

Various booths at the New York Produce Trade Show

New York Produce Show Photo report 
Wednesday, December 13, marked the 8th annual New York Produce Trade Show which was held at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. The show had another great turnout with 400 exhibitors showcasing their latest and greatest. Once again, we were there for our annual photo report of the event. You can see the full photo report here

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