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Perishable Pundit
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Produce Business

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American Food & Ag Exporter

Cheese Connoisseur



Political Incompetence May Ruin Plans For New Philly Market

If you wake up one day to news that the Philadelphia Regional Produce Market is in New Jersey or that the biggest players gave up on the market all together and built their own facilities in New Jersey, you can blame Philadelphia and Pennsylvania politicians.

They have pulled the rug out from under the Philly produce community so many times they may yet learn that men are not meat; the more you pound them, the tougher they get.

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a piece, Produce Market’s 4th Plan to Expand, which put it this way:

The third time certainly wasn’t charmed.

In May, after two years of strong support from Gov. Rendell and State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo (D., Phila.), the governor canceled plans to move the market to the Navy Yard in the face of rising costs and protests from labor unions eager for that land to be used for port expansion….

Three times, the busy market, fed by a steady stream of 18-wheelers from farms across the nation, has developed plans for a new site, only to be told by public officials to try another site.

Now, time truly is running out, said Sonny DiCrecchio, the market’s general manager. The big merchants in the market are losing business because they cannot expand. Another long delay could force these members to break away from the market.

An increasing number of the market’s customers are already insisting that new post-9/11 security and cold-storage standards be met. At some point, DiCrecchio said, these standards will be imposed by the federal government.

The larger members of the market would probably move to New Jersey, DiCrecchio said, because most sites that could meet their needs are there.

Losing the biggest members could lead to the breakup of the market, he added….

The chronic delays in building new quarters have left members of the market fuming. “If there were other options, the members would probably say ‘explore them first,’ but there aren’t,” DiCrecchio said.

As politicians have moved the project from site to site, a package of tax breaks designed to help defray the cost has expired, and construction costs have risen….

When its need for a larger and more modern terminal became critical five years ago, city and state officials proposed a series of expansion sites — two at the old Philadelphia Naval Base, now called the Navy Yard, and the Pier 98 annex on Columbus Boulevard. Each time the market got close to building, officials moved the discussion to a different site.

Now the latest plan involves getting Sysco to move its facility to a new location and have the terminal market expand.

It is a solution fraught with problems. The proposed new site for Sysco is coveted by port operations and meeting fierce resistance from the longshoreman’s union which means it could get tied up in litigation or politics for years.

Besides the Sysco facility is too small:

The new proposed plan is smaller than what was envisioned at the three other sites. The first feature to get cut was a wide central concourse to let customers more conveniently visit all 35 merchants. Under the latest plan, customers would have to shop around the perimeter of the market. Also, some products will have to be shuttled from cold storage at the nearby existing site.

It smacks of the development practice for the Hunts Point Market in New York, it opened in 1967 after a half century of planning and the joke whispered at the opening was that it was “The newest antiquated market in the world.”

In an age in which politicians hyperventilate about global warming how can they propose a solution that will require shuttling produce?

The political incompetence may lead to the loss of Sysco as well, as another piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer, with the title Regional Produce Market, Sysco May Have to Leave Philadelphia to Grow details:

The Philadelphia Regional Produce Market has been trying for six years to get growing room. Bill Tubb, the local chief executive of Sysco Corp., the big restaurant-supply firm, says he can top that.

His company has been working for nine years to get a larger site in Philadelphia, and is about ready to move to New Jersey if it cannot do so.

Both enterprises have identified South Philadelphia sites that would work, and both are at the mercy of warring political and business forces.

They employ a total of 1,600 people — 500 at Sysco and 1,100 at the produce market. If they were able to expand, they say they would hire several hundred more.

“We want to stay in Philadelphia,” Tubb said, because his employees and customers are used to the South Philadelphia location. In May, it appeared that a new facility would be under construction by now, but a threatened lawsuit from maritime interests could cause a lengthy delay.

Tubb said his bosses in Houston were telling him that, if he could not get a deal soon, he should move to a site that would work in West Deptford, Gloucester County.

Sysco desperately needs a new facility:

Sysco’s space constraints have stunted its growth in Philadelphia, Tubb said.

Its operation on Packer Avenue, near the sports complex, is a 30-acre hodgepodge of temporary structures and old buildings dating back 46 years. It handles 1,000 fewer items than the company’s locations in other cities, and it is costly and inefficient to operate, Tubb said.

But Sysco says there are few options in Philadelphia:

“There’s only one site in Philadelphia that will work,” he said. That is the 50-acre Pier 98 Annex, across Columbus Boulevard from the Delaware River. “The company wants 50 acres. It can’t build one of our modern centers on less than 45 acres,” he said.

Sysco is playing up its importing activities and its role in supplying US troops overseas to persuade opponents that it could add business to the port. It won’t be easy to make the deal happen:

Port interests have told all the parties involved that they will file a lawsuit soon after Labor Day to block putting Sysco on the Pier 98 site, owned by the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, a state agency. Although now used only occasionally, they say it is needed for future port expansion.

We actually understand port interests being territorial, they can’t move the port and once nearby land is taken, it becomes unavailable for port expansion. The problem is why the government doesn’t step up to the plate and make sure this business that wants to expand has a way to do so.

The root of the problem is that the politicians don’t really understand what a terminal market is or what it does. This effort to move the market is not principally about helping 35 produce wholesalers and Sysco, it is really an effort to help boost urban vibrancy and rural prosperity.

What makes a city interesting, pulsing with life are unique shops and restaurants. Whereas large chains can build their own distribution facilities, smaller operations depend on public facilities — such as a terminal market. So building a new market is a way of boosting the vibrancy of Philadelphia. It means that entrepreneurs who operate independent restaurants and retail food stores will have the infrastructure to successfully compete for business. These successful businesses give a city its unique character and maintain it as a destination for tourists, for new urban homesteading and as a desirable locale for office workers.

Simultaneously with maintaining a vibrant urban milieu a strong terminal market helps maintain rural viability by providing an outlet for farmers. As big as supermarkets get, the way supermarket chains interact with growers is fundamentally different from the way a terminal market interacts. Supermarket chains buy what they need — the size, the variety, the quality is all set independently of what growers actually grow.

A terminal market, of course, carries a full range of what buyers need but it also helps growers sell what they need to sell. In many ways the viability of rural areas can depend on the ability of the farmer to maximize returns on what the chains do not want to buy. Mother Nature doesn’t only grow the size, the grade, the variety that big chains like to buy. So a bustling terminal market in downtown Philly is a source of sustenance for rural communities, for open space near urban centers, for family farms and local growers.

To properly serve this role, however, requires a new facility.

The irony is that the root of the current problem is that in 2000 the city and state took 85 acres from the Food Distribution Center to build a new baseball stadium, so all the market is asking for is help getting back a contiguous facility such as what it had before.

The Merchant Community in Philadelphia is dedicated to the city and the state, the merchants seem inclined to try and make this Sysco deal work even though it really leaves them with less space than they need.

The politicos better move fast, we think Camden is looking pretty good right now.




Donations To Relieve Peru Are Cause Of Discussion

Our article, Earthquake In Peru Prompts Appeal For Help To Farm Workers There, led to a piece entitled, Pundit’s Mailbag — Tents Needed In Peru. Simultaneously we ran a piece entitled Sun-World Launches Peru Earthquake Relief Program. All of which has brought about a flurry of activity.

We are still hopeful that Wal-Mart, Target, Fred Meyer or another organization that has access to tents will consider sending some to Miami as a donation. The Peruvian produce industry will take it from there.

In the meantime though — and remember these decisions are not produce or perishable-department decisions in most of these large retailers — individual employees of these organizations, and others, are standing up to do what they can. When we pointed out that tents were needed, this Wal-Mart executive, acting in a personal capacity, showed a big heart:

As an individual, I have a five-person tent that’s just collecting dust. Where do I send it?

Thanks

— Denny Berry
QC Regional Manager
DC’s 6084, 6090, 6907, 7013, 7018, 7021, 7025, 7048, & 7077
Wal-Mart DC 7048
McCarran, Nevada

It seems a small thing — a tent, not being used — to send it on. Yet the truth is that if every tent in America that is sitting unused was sent to Peru, they would have a surplus of tents.

One of the things Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart has written is that “…as we continue to grow around the world, it is always our goal to be a valuable member of each of those communities. We want our neighbors to see, understand and be a part of the positive impact Wal-Mart has everywhere we operate.”

Partly neighbors judge Wal-Mart on what it, as a corporation, does. Yet they also look to the contribution each associate makes to the local community and the broader world we live in.

Having people like Denny Berry as part of its team gives Wal-Mart a big edge. We appreciate the contribution and hope others will be inspired by this simple act of kindness and generosity.

Another act of generosity and useful contribution came via Nancy Tucker of PMA:

It has been great to see the concern that you all have voiced regarding the impact of the earthquake on the industry and people of Peru. Our members in that country have told us that while their business operations are very functional, there is a huge need for support to help thousands of farm workers and others rebuild their homes and their lives.

We asked our members and colleagues in Peru how we might best support the rebuilding efforts in the country. We learned that many of the commodity groups (asparagus, citrus, etc.) are engaged in valiant efforts to help their workers. However, many of our contacts recommended that we support an organization called Caritas (more information at www.caritas.org ) that is very engaged in responding to this disaster. Information on their efforts can be found here: http://www.caritas.org/jumpNews.asp?idLang=ENG&idChannel=3&idUser=0&idNews=5234

PMA has a long tradition of supporting our members in times of special humanitarian need — whether it be from hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, freezes, etc. — both in the U.S. and abroad. PMA is donating $1000 to Caritas for relief efforts in Peru and offers the information about this organization for other companies to consider if they wish to support these efforts.

— Nancy J. Tucker, CAE
Vice President, Global Business Development
Produce Marketing Association
Newark, Delaware USA

Many people are looking for the right mechanism to donate and Nancy is telling us that PMA’s Peruvian membership is recommending Caritas. Caritas is an umbrella for numerous Catholic relief agencies, but it helps people without regard to religion. In fact, Caritas makes a point of noting that the Jewish community of Peru, backed by both Jewish organizations in many countries and the Israeli government, is working with Caritas to funnel aid to survivors of the earthquake in Peru.

The $1,000 donation is about right. The purpose of trade associations is to do for the industry, collectively, what companies cannot do so well themselves. A donation of this size expresses the trade’s collective concern while still expecting companies and individuals to do the heavy lifting and to make judgments about what is the correct use of funds.

The Pundit would like to match PMA’s donation and so is sending a personal check to Nancy Tucker of PMA, made out to Caritas, in the amount of $1,000. We make this donation in honor of the generosity of our Pundit readers and in the hope of helping to alleviate the suffering in Peru.

It was Bruce McEvoy of Seald Sweet who launched an industry appeal on this matter and kicked off our discussion. Nancy’s sharing of the Caritas information provides help to those industry members looking to donate.

Yet donating to Caritas or CARE or any other general relief organization does not really address the provision of aid specifically to farm workers or to others related to the produce industry. After Nancy sent out her Caritas information, Bruce responded by thanking Nancy for doing that work and then he went on to follow up on his appeal:

I’m going to continue the dialogue with our colleagues in order to further explore what the broader produce industry might do to support the relief efforts in Peru. I want to address awareness of the need, and the importance of simplicity in fundraising.

If you are not directly involved in production or sourcing produce from Peru, you are probably aware of the tragedy, but the details can be overshadowed by other daily issues and concerns. We have to find a way to get the facts to the industry, in order to trigger that latent compassion and generosity which resides in all our industry friends, the willingness to support a humanitarian relief effort.

In 2004 the PMA allowed me to address the International Forum in order to position for the trade the post-hurricane situation in Florida. We used very simple and factual sound bites of what happened, and we certainly had no need to exaggerate. You could hear a pin drop in the room, and many of our friends had tears in their eyes in learning the true extent of the damage, particularly the number of displaced farm workers. Immediately following the session, a number of retailers promised to support special promotion features as a source of fundraising. Other companies suggested donations from established foundations within the industry, and of course there were personal gifts

Once the industry is focused on a campaign, for example, raise $1 million for Farm Worker Housing Relief and Child Care, the process has to be simple and clear. What registered Foundation will hold the funds and contributions? How will the funds be used? Who will have oversight on the actual use of relief funds? Following the 2004 hurricanes, we lost valuable time and probably significant donations because we couldn’t tell a retail partner or other donors where to send the contribution. Finally, we were able to host this special Farm Worker Relief Fund within the registered foundation of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.

I dwell on the need for an umbrella industry effort since the situation in Peru mirrors our experience in Florida. A natural disaster that touched the hearts of people around the world, and relief was instantaneous. Yet when the headlines were gone from the front pages, thousands of farm workers and their families were still homeless. That’s when we need to reinvigorate hope! Perhaps we have one Peru Day in October to conduct fundraising and to elevate the need.

We certainly can get the message out through friends in press, but there is still the need for that industry umbrella. As I’ve stated previously, this is beyond the scope of one company. It needs a proactive industry or time will solve the problem.

As always, I look forward to your insights.

— Bruce McEvoy
Seald Sweet LLC
Vero Beach, Florida

Bruce McEvoy certainly merits a humanitarian award for his diligence in trying to help both alleviate suffering in Peru and to help the industry develop a mechanism to deal with a similar crisis in the future.

He also is spot on in pointing out that this type of relief effort often peters out, and the suffering continues long after the TV cameras have moved on to other events.

Perhaps PMA could help by compiling a list of all industry-affiliated charitable trusts and foundations, with a description of sponsors, purpose, scope, etc. This way, in the event of a natural disaster, those looking to arrange donations would have an instant directory of who might be in-sync — just as the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association was a reasonable place to look to host a fund to help farm workers.

It is a difficult issue for many reasons: First, although Peru is obviously a serious natural disaster. It is not the only one. Jamaica, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia and Dominica are now suffering the after-effects of Hurricane Dean. The Associated Press is producing stories with titles like this: Hurricane Dean Leaves Thousands of Caribbean Banana Workers Unemployed and Hurricane Dean Destroys Banana Crops In Jamaica and Dominica.

We mention this not to in any way minimize the suffering in Peru but simply to point out that there is much suffering in the world, and it is not clear that a trade association should be involved in actively urging its members to fund one relief campaign over another.

For that matter, although alleviating suffering is a worthy cause, it is not the only worthy cause, and if a company or an individual decided to dedicate their charitable work toward curing cancer or some other cause, we would be loathe to pressure them to switch their charity to crisis relief.

We can certainly perceive a role for a trade association in facilitating private charity that its members wish to conduct. The compilation of a compendium of charitable trusts and foundations is that type of work. Another option is to do what Nancy did in response to member requests, calling PMA’s members in Peru to find out who is credible as a recipient of charity, etc. If a foundation decided to conduct a “Peru Day,” a trade association could certainly inform its membership.

Yet it strikes us as problematic for a national trade association itself to take the lead in organizing any of this. On what basis would it decide a Peru Day is justified and a Jamaica Day is not? What happens when a member points out that the government in country X is corrupt and skimming off the charity funds?

Possibly we could consider the use of the PMA Educational Foundation as a conduit for the funds. Yet even that raises questions, assuming the papers are set up that it is even legal to do relief efforts or serve as charitable conduits:

First, we are not sure why we would bother. The PMA Educational Foundation has no expertise in relief efforts, so all it would do is give the money to, in this case, Caritas or some other charity on the ground in Peru or to the Peruvian government. Why not cut out the middle man and just post on PMA’s web site that for those interested in donating, here are two or three organizations that PMA’s members in that country or in that facet of the business are recommending as a conduit for charitable donations?

Second, there are legal issues. Once that money comes into a foundation, the board of that foundation has fiduciary obligations toward those funds. If there was to be a conflict between the donors — who after all are just looking for a conduit — and the board on how the money should be spent, it could sour the atmosphere for the foundation’s own fund raising.

Third, it will inevitably be a distraction from an educational foundation’s intended purpose. Staff time, lawyers and accountants — all working on something that is not the purpose of the organization.

Fourth, aid is not easy, and conflicts will inevitably arise. If the same earthquake had occurred in Venezuela, run by a political enemy of the United States, what aid we ought to provide, how it should be provided, all this would be hotly controversial. Once the crisis is past, aiding overseas farm workers could be seen as a kind of subsidy that helps a foreign grower compete against a U.S. grower.

Fifth, it will confuse donors. The educational foundation of a trade association is going to go out to foundations, government groups, private individuals and others for grants. When they review the expenditures of the foundation, they will find some kind of unusual educational and relief agency hybrid, and it will probably scare good donor sources away.

We suspect that with so many aid organizations existing, in the vast majority of cases, those interested in doing so can quickly identify one to give donations. In cases where a foundation is required to hold money while its disposition is being arranged, there are many existing trusts and foundations to work with.

If there is a need for a national entity, we would suggest setting up an independent foundation dedicated to relief purposes. Perhaps it could be called “Produce Cares” or something like that. It could help migrant farm workers in the U.S. and aid in a crisis such as exists in Peru.

Importantly, it would be dedicated to this function, have a board and staff focused on this function and keep the conflicts intrinsic in the relief business, tightly contained.

Many thanks to Denny Berry, Nancy Tucker and Bruce McEvoy for helping us advance the industry discussion on this issue.




CPMA’s Dempster Defends Produce Industry’s Food Safety Record In Canada

The Ottawa Citizen ran a series devoted to food safety. Canada’s Risky Business made you think they need to quarantine the whole country:

Up to 13 million Canadians, more than 40 per cent of the population, will suffer from food-borne illnesses this year, an epidemic that medical experts say costs up to $1.3 billion annually in lost productivity and medical expenses.

E. coli-tainted spinach from the U.S.; cantaloupes from Costa Rica contaminated with salmonella; and pet food containing a toxic chemical imported from China — recent safety scares have raised serious questions about the security of Canada’s food supply…

But quickly enough, the article gets around to blaming the imports:

Federal health officials say they’re becoming more and more worried about the fact fresh fruits and vegetables shipped to Canada from other countries, including those with lower safety standards, are making up an increasingly large proportion of cases of foodborne illness.

“One of the more recent trends that we’ve observed that is of some concern to us is we are seeing an increasing number of outbreaks linked to produce,” said Paul Sockett, director of foodborne, waterborne and zoonotic infections at the Public Health Agency of Canada, which estimates up to 13 million people in this country will suffer from a foodborne illness this year. “I’m talking about plants, fruit, types of materials, even nuts. A lot of this, actually, is coming into the country rather than the stuff that’s actually produced within Canada itself.”

While imported products help keep prices down and give consumers choices, the reality is that the farther away our food originates, the more difficult it is for the government and food industry to guarantee it’s safe.

“It’s getting worse, not better, because of the fact we’re importing more and more food from places like China, where food safety is a joke,” said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association. “It’s endemic, inherent in an industrialized food production system that you have a lot of filth and disease spread.”

Foreign-grown produce has brought new types of bacteria and foodborne illness into Canada in recent years, such as a parasite found on soft fruit grown in central South America and salmonella bacteria on bean sprouts and lettuce from the United States.

The next piece in the series, The Canadian Farmer’s Lament, explains that Canada puts a lot of standards on its farmers but doesn’t require them of farmer’s from outside Canada and that food safety is best served by buying local:

Recent examples of food scares involving imported spinach tainted with E. coli, contaminated carrot juice and pet food that contained a poisonous chemical have convinced some that Canada should place a higher level of scrutiny on foreign food products.

“The Canadian government’s got their blinders on,” Mr. Terauds said. “They probably don’t have the manpower, but why should the Canadian farmers be faced with all these rules and the imported stuff not?”

Canadian farmers say the best way consumers can ensure they’re eating safe food is to purchase it directly from the grower, rather than buying products from an industrial farm where the sheer size and scope of operations makes it difficult to catch problems with the food supply.

“The safest food is the stuff that’s local because the stuff that’s local is picked by myself or someone else or my staff. I know exactly who they are. I know if they’re sick that morning. I know if they’re going to wash their hands after they’ve gone to the washroom and all those nice other things,” Mr. Terauds said. “If you’ve got 250 people working for you like a lot of these big places do, how do you know who’s doing what? Are you going to follow everyone into the can? You can’t do it.”

The final day of the series, they left produce alone and turned to meat in a piece entitled, Ranchers Willing To Pay The Price To Keep Meat Safe, Customers Happy:

Unlike fresh produce, the majority of which isn’t inspected before it is allowed to be sold in Canada, the federal government inspects 100 per cent of meat products, including poultry, beef and pork, before they’re allowed in.

“They certainly are subject to our highest level of scrutiny,” said Paul Mayers, executive director of the animal products directorate at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. “We provide the highest level of scrutiny because meats have that potential to cause illness in humans if not properly produced and prepared and handled. They have the potential to bring foreign animal diseases into the country.”

The pressure to keep the meat on grocery store shelves safe has likely never been higher. Yet, despite the added work, cost and frustration these changes have brought, Canadian ranchers say the only way to survive is to meet or exceed the regulations that now govern their business.

It was a sloppy series in which people were allowed to say things without challenge — a dangerous situation in Canada’s capitol where the series might give some government officials some incorrect notions.

Fortunately, Dan Dempster, President, Canadian Marketing Association lives in Ottawa as well, and he wrote a letter to the editor:

IT’S A TEAM EFFORT TO KEEP OUR FOOD SAFE

Re: Series: From farm to table, Aug. 7-9.

Canadians love their produce, consuming more than 6.4 million tonnes annually. That’s something like 50 billion servings of tasty salads, apples and berries, to name a few.

Yet produce has had some bad press lately, including information that’s wrong. A number of produce-related issues late last year captured the headlines. And serious as they were, they don’t define the reality of Canada’s market for produce.

Confusing research also had some consumers wondering about the produce they’re eating, with no good reason. Take, for instance, the scary statistic from the Public Health Agency of Canada that spoke of an estimated 11 million to 13 million cases of food-borne illness a year in Canada. A number like that suggests a veritable epidemic.

But a closer look reveals the number was a countrywide extrapolation from the results of a telephone survey conducted with 3,500 randomly selected residents of the Hamilton, Ontario, area. In other words, it’s an estimate.

Canadians can have more confidence in a study to be published later this year by the same public health agency, which revealed that less than three per cent of the 1,127 outbreaks reported over eight years were definitively linked to fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce, it turns out, is actually the safest fresh food group.

Of course, one foodborne related illness is too many. But the statistics regarding the health benefits of consuming five to 10 daily servings of fruits and vegetables are overwhelming.

With good reason Canada’s Food Guide places produce at the top of the rainbow in terms of recommended consumption. Science has proved that consuming vegetables and fruit can help reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, keep your bones strong and make it easier to maintain a healthy weight.

Supporting all this is an industry that devotes considerable resources and tireless efforts to ensuring a safe food supply.

Canadians enjoy an extensive variety of healthful, delicious fresh produce year-round, and whether domestic or imported, conventionally grown or organic, this industry works diligently to provide safe, nutritious product to consumers.

Food safety is a team effort involving both industry and consumers.

Industry members share responsibility along the supply chain, while consumers complete the effort through proper washing, handling and storage of fresh fruits and vegetables at home. Recommendations on safe food handling practices can be found at canfightbac.org. For more information on healthy eating, visit 5to10aday.com.

Dan Dempster
Ottawa
President, Canadian Produce Marketing Association

Three intriguing things about this letter:

  1. There is reference to a study soon to be published that will show that produce is the safest food group.
  2. A reminder that any risks in consuming produce must be balanced against the benefits of eating produce.
  3. The reminder that consumers have obligations to wash, handle and store properly to achieve food safety.

Thanks to Danny Dempster and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association for manning the barricades.




Pundit’s Mailbag — Obregons Celebrate New Life

Our piece, Hass Avocado Board Promotes Jose Luis Obregon To Managing Director, brought a quick response from Jose Luis who was, understandably busy at the moment:

Thank you for the very nice coverage regarding my promotion. Your ability to sum up the Mexican revolution in two paragraphs was unbelievable. Your comments regarding the organization and your closing lines are greatly appreciated.

I am currently in the hospital expecting Jose Luis Jr., who should arrive in a few hours, but did not want the day to go by without thanking you.

— Jose Luis Obregon
Managing Director
Hass Avocado Board
Irvine, California

That is dedication. The man is practically in the delivery room and still fulfilling his professional responsibilities.

Jose Luis’s father Francisco “Pancho” Obregon, waited a day to send us this note:

As your daily reader, I always enjoy the latest and most accurate information around this fascinating industry of fresh produce. I was very happy to learn this morning through today’s Pundit the details about Jose Luis’ promotion as the newly created role of Managing Director of the Hass Avocado Board

He told me last week that “he was promoted” and would further elaborate in person about his new responsibilities. I explicitly learned about his new roles through the Pundit… thanks!

I am very proud of Jose Luis and his personal growth and self development throughout his professional life. You mentioned in the article that “I might be smiling” because of his success, and let me tell you that my smile is much wider because Jose Luis and Karina’s first baby was born tonight in Irvine. Jose Luis Jr., my third grand child, is doing well and is pretty healthy. Here goes the 6th generation of produce farmers.

In another subject, I do need to make one important clarification from the same article from the Pundit. This is regarding when you mentioned that I was currently “consulting under the Novelle Consulting umbrella”. It was during December 2006 when I stopped all of my consulting practice with Novelle and all of my other customers; Al Vangelos, Danny Lopez, Win Winogrond and my other partners at Novelle’s, which are some of my best friends, respected and supported all of the decisions that I made then.

All of that happened so quick because of a good and valid reason: I was invited by C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., Minneapolis, to operate their newly formed Latin America Business Development Division and in January 2007, I officially started full time being part of the CHRW Team. It is for me very exiting and challenging to work with one of the World’s largest third-party logistics (3PL) companies, which is directly involved in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Could you imagine having our own labels (Fresh1), our prestigious Brands (Welch’s, Mott’s, Tropicana, etc.), growing and marketing our own proprietary seeds (Bambino, Mirai, etc.), developing value-added packaging, distributing our own Fresh-N-Easy line of pre-cuts, being part of a 102-year-old company with multi-modal transportation, one of the most admired companies by Fortune; and now, in addition to sourcing the highest quality products from preferred growers, we integrate value-added logistics and distribution services every step of the way. Rather than simply providing our retailers in the NAFTA countries with the best commodities, we customize a complete supply-chain solution that meets each individual customer’s needs.

This has been a great experience, hard work and real fun! Can you imagine? For a produce veteran, this is like a dream, isn’t it? Just take a look at this: http://www.chrobinson.com/spanish/
produce_sourcing_solutions.asp

I did not know that you were also an historian, but you forgot something very important: Alvaro Obregon was also a fruit and vegetable farmer. He grew melons, tomatoes, peas, peppers, citrus, and chickpeas.

I am looking forward to seeing you in Houston in two months and share with you some good coffee; my best regards to Mrs. Pundit and the Jr. Pundits!

— Pancho
Francisco Obregón
Director of Produce
Latin America Business Development
C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc.

First, a hearty mazel tov to Jose Luis, to Karina, to Pancho and to the whole family. May Jose Luis Jr. be a source of both joy and pride to his parents and grandparents.

Second, if we are now telling parents about their children’s promotions we must be ahead of the curve. We are honored.

Third, we apologize for not mentioning Pancho’s work with C.H. Robinson and are happy to correct the record. We knew Pancho was working with CHR but mistakenly thought it was under the Novelle umbrella.

How thrilling that the opportunity is so vast and C.H. Robinson’s commitment so strong, that Pancho’s work in Latin American business development is a full time position.

Look at the website link Pancho sent us right here. It stands as testimony to the commitment C.H. Robinson has made to this project.

Finally, yes, if Jose Luis Jr. takes to produce, he will be the 6th generation active in the field. Way back when Pancho was President of BioNova Produce, Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, ran a “Blast from the Past” featuring a 1926 photo that included “…melons del General Alvaro Obregón….” being displayed at a fair in Mexico City. You can see the page right here.

With a new baby and a new job, our experienced advice to Jose Luis is to pay maximum attention to his wife. With immense responsibilities for building this division for a major multi-national corporation, our advice to Pancho is to find time to play with his new grandson.

And with a whole world to discover, our advice to Jose Luis Jr. is to soak it all in and enjoy it. With a family like yours, you begin life as a lotto winner.

Congratulations to all.

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