2015 Year Overview - January

End of an era at Belgium New Fruit Wharf

2015 saw the end of an era, as after 33 years Chiquita stopped unloading bananas at Belgium New Fruit Wharf (BFNW) in Antwerp, and instead chose to unload at Kloosterboer in Vlissingen, The Netherlands. Franklin Ginus, Director of Chiquita Benelux, said this decision is a direct result of the take-over by the Brazilian juice giant Cutrale-Safra. The first load in Vlissingen took place 7th of January.

Chiquita is currently the only company who has chosen Vlissingen. According to Franklin there are various advantages involved in the change. "By changing ports and shortening the distance we can unload as much as four days faster. In addition, the handling of loads in Vlissingen will be faster. Through more accurate arrivals we can add more value to the chain."

Winter storms

In January the weather is never far from the headlines and 2015 was no different. The first victim was Israel, when early in the month heavy rains and high winds swept through the country bringing a major winter storm with hail and snow.

Growers seemed to have come off lightly as most of the fruit escaped damage, some was already harvested before the storm hit. Ports in Haifa and Ashdod were closed for a while causing delays.

Frosts in Turkey took a significant toll on some agricultural producers across the country, especially in Adana and Mersin, where around 50% of the country’s citrus is grown. The most hit were the orchards in the coastal parts of the region. It was thought that export volumes would be around 25-30%.

Spain was next in line when on 19 January, a strong hailstorm in the province of Almeria caused serious damage, especially to the greenhouse facilities of San Agustín in El Ejido, in La Mojonera, and in Roquetas de Mar, to a lesser extent. These are the areas producing the most greenhouse vegetables in Almeria.

It was a major loss for growers, both in terms of crops with campaigns in full swing, and in terms of infrastructure. The hail was especially harmful to peppers and courgettes.

At the end of the month the North-eastern United States was expecting at least one to two feet of snow. Among the New England states affected, New York had 20 to 30 inches.

The 2014/15 Italian clementine season had not been good from the start, and the frost recorded at the end of 2014 and the unstable weather after that put a stop to the production in Calabria.

Ismea data concerning the third week of 2015 reports a further decrease in prices due to unsuitable quality standards, especially for what concerns the latest common varieties.

"At the end of 2014, temperatures went down to -3/-4°C in various areas of the Sibari plain. There are orchards in which the fruit is totally compromised."

Ban on Indian mangoes lifted
The European Commission lifted the ban on imports of Indian mangoes in the run up to the export season. The decision was endorsed today by Member State experts meeting at a Regulatory Committee concerned with Plant Health.

The import of certain fruit and vegetables, taro, eddo, mango, bitter gourd, eggplant and snake gourd from India was prohibited in April 2014 due to a high number of consignments intercepted at arrival in the EU infested with quarantine pests.

An audit carried out by the Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office in India in September 2014 showed significant improvements in the phytosanitary export certification system.

Port Dispute
The agreement on both sides of a labour dispute between workers at West Coast ports (US) and port operators to use a federal mediator brought hope that the issue could be resolved. The dispute, which began summer 2015, delayed loading and unloading times across major sea ports along the West Coast.

January is an important month for grapes, as the Southern Hemisphere fruit starts to arrive in volumes in the EU.

South Africa had a significantly earlier start to the 2014/15 season, combined with favourable weather conditions resulted in higher volumes of excellent quality grapes, as compared to last season. SATGI indicated that volumes would taper into a normal harvest, confirming the initial crop estimate of 53-54.3 million cartons.

The grape import season in Europe started with very little product and high prices, but prices plummeted when more volumes became available, Christmas sales were certainly hard and the prices low. During the first few weeks a lot more grapes were being exported from South Africa. After Christmas, prices fell even further, and it was a real challenge.
The UK grape market was sluggish mid month to say the least. A shortage of grapes in December has caused prices to increase to an almost unprecedented level where people just stopped buying them. The short supply from Brazil, due to increased domestic and US demand and climatic conditions meant less volume, was the reason for the high prices before Christmas. Then all at once there were large volumes from Peru. This, in combination with the early large volumes of South African arrivals and lack of demand pushed prices way down.

First export of UK grown Envy

January 2015 saw the first Envy apples exported to Singapore. Worldwide Fruit sent the first ever container of UK-grown Envy apples to Singapore. The apples were destined for NTUC supermarkets.

NY Apple growers launch RubyFrost®

The New York Apple Growers (NYAG) launched a second new apple variety called RubyFrost.. RubyFrost is known for its beautiful rich color, definitive crisp texture and a delicate balance of sweet and tart flavors.

Developed by Cornell University, RubyFrost, as well as SnapDragon™ which launched this past November, is licensed for a managed release with the New York Apple Growers (NYAG). Both varieties have been a decade in the making with the first trees planted in farmers’ orchards in 2011. Now the still-young trees produced a limited crop with plans for a much larger roll out with increased retail participation in 2016 as the trees continue to mature and produce more fruit.

Fresh cut watermelons in resealable bag

Maglio & Co. announced the completion of a successful new product pilot program evaluating their patented, retail watermelon bags. Maglio had partnered with a well-known national retailer to test the bags in 300 stores throughout a substantial cross section of the U. S. market. Melon sales with this offering were brisk even in the late fall and early winter season. The test was so successful, it earned full endorsement by the National Watermelon Association.

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