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US trade commission finds that blueberry imports do not threaten domestic industry

US trade commission finds that blueberry imports do not threaten domestic industry
Photo: California Giant Berry

In an official deliberation, the US International Trade Commission has determined that fresh, chilled, or frozen blueberries are not being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as constitute a substantial cause of serious injury, or threat of serious injury, to the domestic industry. As a result, the investigation will end, and the Commission will not recommend a remedy to the President.

The investigation was initiated following a request by the office of US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in September 2020 to address concerns from US farmers that imported fruit harms their industry. Groups representing two different sectors of the US blueberry industry testified on January 12 at a hearing before the ITC.

The American Blueberry Growers Alliance (ABGA) said it is disappointed by the ITC ruling, while Latin American trade associations welcomed the decision. Daniel Bustamante of Peru’s ProArandanos called the ruling “the product of efficient and organized work of the industry as a whole – great teamwork that determined that exports favor the consumption of blueberries with excellent quality throughout the year”.

 

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Organic Vegetable Production Conference

Organic Vegetable Production Conference

The Organic Vegetable Production Conference is a producer-initiated conference which is built around farmer-to-farmer skill sharing and attracts experienced growers from across the US (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and beyond). This conference has the technical details that other organic conferences sometimes lack. The event will be held online on February 22-27, 2021 and is part of the Growing Stronger: Collaborative Conference on Organic and Sustainable Farming.

This producer-initiated conference is designed for advanced growers and attracts participants from throughout the Midwest and beyond.

For more information, visit: https://web.cvent.com/event/b1fcc89f-d903-4e65-9a18-c63297078800/summary

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US-UK equivalency agreement for organic products takes effect

US-UK equivalency agreement for organic products takes effect

© USDA Public Domain

 

On January 1, 2021, a new US-UK equivalence agreement ensures that organic products certified to either USDA or UK standards may be labelled and sold as organic in both countries. The agreement provides continuity for US-UK exports covered by the US-EU equivalence agreement, following Brexit.

Like the US-EU agreement, the US-UK agreement covers only certified organic products that have been grown or raised in the US or UK and products where the final processing or packaging occurs in these countries, including where organic ingredients from other countries have been certified to USDA or UK standards. Crops, wild crops, livestock, and processed products are all eligible for equivalency under the agreement, but agricultural products derived from animals treated with antibiotics will not be certified organic when exported to the US.

The UK has established a new import process for all USDA organic products traded under the agreement, with different documentation required depending on whether the product is exported to Great Britain or Northern Ireland. As is the case under the US-EU agreement, exported organic products under the US-UK agreement must meet the labelling requirements of the destination country.

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South Asia Rising: US Food and Beverage Virtual Trade Event

South Asia Rising: US Food and Beverage Virtual Trade Event

US food and beverage exporters can connect with new customers and explore exciting sales opportunities in the rapidly growing South Asia market during a virtual trade event hosted by the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). Apply now to join us for South Asia Rising, which will take place February 2-4, 2021.

US farm and food exports to the South Asian nations of Bangladesh, India, Burma (Myanmar), Nepal and Sri Lanka have grown 80% over the past five years, reaching an annual value of $3.6 billion. The region’s growing population of globally fluent, aspirational consumers is driving demand for a wide range of premium food and beverage products, creating excellent sales prospects for U.S. companies.

Exporters of U.S. dairy products, healthy and natural foods (including vegetarian/vegan-friendly foods and non-alcoholic beverages), prepared foods and tree nuts are strongly encouraged to apply. Representatives from FAS offices across the region will offer insights on current market trends and conditions and participating U.S. companies will be able to connect directly with interested customers during virtual business-to-business meetings arranged by FAS staff. 

The deadline to apply is December 11, 2020. Please click here for more information or contact virtualtradeevents@usda.gov.

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Publix named top US supermarket for customer service

Publix named top US supermarket for customer service
Photo: supermarketnews.com

 

Publix has been named the best US supermarket in Newsweek’s Best Customer Service 2021 list. In a joint project between Newsweek and Statista to identify the stores that consistently provide the best customer service, over 25,000 US customers were surveyed.

Supermarkets were ranked on their net promoter score and five evaluation criteria (quality of communication, professional competence, range of services, customer focus and accessibility). The winner Publix (8.79) was followed by Wegmans (8.62), Trader Joe’s (8.57), Sprouts (8.54), and The Fresh Market (8.35).

Publix director of communications, Maria Brous, said, “We are honoured to be recognised with this award by our customers. Publix associates work hard to treat our customers like royalty, and we’re grateful to be acknowledged for customer service excellence in our industry.”

In other categories, AmazonFresh came out top in the online supermarkets, followed by FreshDirect and Shipt. In the convenience store category, Wawa secured top spot, followed by QuikTrip and Sheetz. In the superstores and warehouse club stores category, Costco came first, followed by Meijer and Sam’s Club. In the meal kit services category, Home Chef came first, Martha was second and Marley Spoon was third. 

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Surge in demand for organic apples in US

Surge in demand for organic apples in US © Eurofresh Distribution
© Eurofresh Distribution

 

There has been a bump in demand for organic apples in the US during the current pandemic. And there is no sign of the fruit’s popularity abating as we head into the autumn. Some companies are reporting growth of over 25% in sales of organic apples in the past four months. The organic varieties performing the best are Granny Smith, Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp. However, sustainability may not be rising hand-in-hand with the popularity of organics in the apple segment. Due to hygiene concerns, there has also been increased demand for packaged apples. In fact, while pre-Covid, around 40% of all apple sales in the US were packaged, the proportion now stands at around 44%.

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Concerns over spike of Covid-19 cases in US produce sector

Concerns over spike of Covid-19 cases in US produce sector copyright. United Fresh facebook page, DNO Produce

© DNO Produce (United Fresh)

 

The US produce sector is alarmed by the growing number of coronavirus cases reported among fruit and vegetable packers, according to Reuters. Besides the health risks to staff, the problem is leading to labour shortages that threaten to disrupt US produce supplies. Health officials in the state of Washington report 600 agricultural workers testing positive for Covid-19 in Yakima Country in May, 62% of whom were from the apple industry. For figure until 10th June, the county had the highest per-capita infection rate on the west coast of the US. In Monterey County, California, known for its high concentration of vegetable farms, 39% of all Covid-19 cases were among agricultural workers.

And it’s not only on the west coast that there’s a problem. Immokalee (Florida), a tomato production hub, has also reported a spike in coronavirus cases. Given the importance of the fresh produce industry, the USDA and the FDA have said the government could use the Defense Production Act to protect fruit and vegetable packhouses and keep them in operation. The act would allow packers some liability protection should their employees fall sick with the virus.

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Lidl aims to conquer US

Lidl aims to conquer US
© tonetoatl.com

 

Lidl’s new store in Peachtree Corners, Atlanta is the German retailer’s fifth in Georgia and 99th Lidl in the US. Having opened its first US outlet in 2017, the discounter aims to continue its steady expansion along the East Coast, with the target of reaching 1,500 stores across the country, according to Progressive Grocer.

Lidl’s US headquarters is located in Arlington County, Virginia. Its newest fulfilment facility opened recently in Perryville between Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. The 705,000-sq.-ft. facility is the smallest of the company’s DCs. The company’s first distribution centre in Fredricksburg, Virginia, just south of Washington D.C. measures 919,000-sq.-ft. An 850,000-sq.-ft. facility that opened in the summer of 2017 is located midway between Greensboro and Durham, NC. A fourth facility, the company’s largest to date at 925,000-sq.-ft., will be located in southeast of Atlanta and an opening date has not been disclosed. 

Lidl operates more than 11,000 stores in 32 countries, employing about 287,000 employees worldwide. It currently operates more than 75 stores in nine East Coast states.

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COVID-19 hits mango sales in US

COVID-19 hits mango sales in US

 

The shutdown of foodservice channels across the world is having a devastating effect on the mango market and other products perceived as being luxury fruits. Gary Clevenger, managing member and co-founder of California-based grower-shipper Freska Produce International LLC, told The Packer, “The mango market started out strong and good; now the market has slowed due to foodservice being non-existent and the COVID-19 uncertainty. Shoppers seems to be sticking to the food staples of potatoes, onions, and veg. We’re aggressively trying to promote ads in hopes of getting fruit to retail.” 

Chris Ciruli, partner in Arizona-based Ciruli Bros. LLC, agrees: “We’re seeing major chains still carrying the bulk of their product items but not their full load. To compound that, you’re seeing the shutdown of the European market, as well as Mexican and Central American suppliers. You’re not seeing boats go to Europe, so more are destined for the US, whether from Costa Rica or Guatemala.”

 

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Roadmap to save California agriculture

Roadmap to save California agriculture

A new project outlines how organic and more sustainable farming practices can offer a means to save California, which is currently facing a climate crisis, with rising temperatures, frequent heat waves and wildfires. Years of drought have created limited water supplies and the disruption of normal ecosystems. California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) has released the second part of a research project that investigates how organic farming can represent a solution to some of the gravest issues facing California and the world today. The Roadmap to an Organic California: Policy Report posits that organic agriculture is a solution to the changing climate, economic insecurity and health inequities. By building healthy soils that store carbon and water, by creating jobs and reinvesting dollars into local economies, and by providing healthy food and protecting the environment, the Roadmap concludes that organic is critical to securing California’s future.

The Roadmap outlines tangible policy recommendations such as integrating organic into California’s climate strategy by building healthy soils, investing in water efficiency programmes to secure California’s water supply, investing more in organic research and technical assistance to build farm resilience, and conserving California’s dwindling farmland to maximise carbon capture.

The Roadmap also offers social recommendations, such as supporting organic farmers to comply with regulations and maintain viability, investing in farmworker housing, transportation and pathways to citizenship, integrating organic agriculture and business into economic development planning, and cultivating the next generation of organic farmers with access to capital, land tenure education, financial and legal services.