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Paradigm shift in eggplant industry causes prices to fall

Prices have dropped more than half in the imported Mexican eggplant market. “This year pricing is extremely low. Normally we’re getting about $1.20-$1.30/lb. for eggplant and right now we’re around the $.50-$.60 cent mark which makes it unviable,” says Alex Duvall of Morro Bay, Ca.-based Vida Fresh Inc. Supply, he adds is a little lower because the demand isn’t there, despite the fact that the eggplants are in the “sweet spot” size of 18-24 count range.

While eggplant is one of many products Vida Fresh grows in Baja, Mex. (their farm is located in the Todos Santos area of Southern Baja), it does import it weekly. “With the amazing weather, we consistently grow 10 months out of the year,” says Duvall, who also notes its warehouse is located in Commerce, Ca.) Yet, Duvall thinks the pricing fall is part of the bigger industry picture. “There’s a paradigm shift in the industry in general,” says Duvall. “There are more people growing, a lot of chain stores are going corporate, a lot of companies (distributors) that have a lot of retail support are doing more programs with growers, which we are doing as well.

Things turning around?
That said, Duvall says he has seen a bit of a transition in the past couple of weeks. “That indicates there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s not going to be a big money maker this year, that’s for sure,” he says, noting that eggplant is one of those commodities that could turn around fast to sell. “So for example if another company doesn’t have any, then suddenly we’re getting $27-$28/box instead of $15/box,” he says.

Disconnect between grower and end-user
In seeing this, it hits home to Duvall a larger concern he has about the industry. “I don’t think people really differentiate from one grower to the next unless they’re a loyal supporter of that growers’ label,” he says. “I see the stuff at my supermarket and wonder why I’m paying $3.50 a lb. for organic product when as a grower we’re getting less than $1 (sometimes as little as .25 a lb for organic food safety certified produce) for the product at the grower level? As a grower, we get compared to what everyone else is selling their product for. There’s a huge disconnect from the grower to the end-user via retail.”

However, Vida Fresh, who Duvall says has been growing high quality products for nearly 30 years, notes that “As a grower, we have very good support from our loyal customers who love their product and we continually outperform the market due to our high quality.”

For more information:
Alex Duvall
Vida Fresh Inc.
Tel: +1 (805) 772-7020

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