Archive for the ‘Global Trade’ Category

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Fresh Summit sessions to explore food safety, tech, big data

If you missed the food safety workshop held during last month’s PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo in Monterey, California, you can get caught up on the content presented during this session by visiting the PMA website, which includes video segments of PMA Chief Science & Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker discussing the Food Safety Modernization Act implementation timeline, the implications of big data, and more.

Building on the momentum of the Monterey workshop, PMA is offering a series of food safety-focused sessions during our Fresh Summit 2014 Convention & Expo, October 17-19 in Anaheim, California. Here’s a quick look at what’s available for the science and technology community:

  • Changing the Future of Produce Safety. This session, featuring PMA Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. Jim Gorny will highlight recent research findings conducted at the Center for Produce Safety and their business implications. In addition, a panel of produce business experts will address questions from the audience on critical topics in produce food safety, and share with you the newest technical information to help you make informed, actionable business decisions for your company.
  • Putting Predictive Modeling to Work for You. Predictive Modeling/predictive analytics is the type of data mining that forecasts probabilities and trends, and this session will give you clarity about how to use your data by examining companies that have created models that drive increased sales, quality and efficiency.
  • Embracing Disruptive Technology. In this session, Dr. Bob Whitaker and a panel of experts will provide insight into the disruptive technologies that are emerging and provide insights into how these technologies will affect the produce industry and how you can leverage them to transform your business into one that is poised to meet the future demand for food.

To learn more about Fresh Summit 2014, including how to register, visit the PMA website. Please note that early registration rates will apply until September 12.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Free PACA webinar coming June 26

Next Thursday, June 26 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service will host a free Webinar titled “An Introduction to the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA).”

In this session, Karla Whalen, Director of the PACA Division, will introduce the PACA and provide practical tips on how PACA can help produce companies resolve everyday business challenges from the interpretation of USDA inspection certificates to protecting their businesses if customers do not pay or file for bankruptcy. Following her presentation, the webinar will conclude with an interactive question and answer session.

Since this is a free Webinar, space is limited and USDA asks that interested parties register to participate via the USDA Webex site.

This webinar is one of many hosted throughout the year by the Agricultural Marketing Service’s Fruit and Vegetable Program. You can check out a library of prior Webinars on the USDA Webinar Archive.

If you have any questions about this webinar series or others, you can e-mail Christopher Purdy at USDA or call him at (202) 720-3209.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 by Danielle Vickery

“Out of curiosity,” I asked, “what will the new website look like?”

After a promising interview in February for the new position of content editor at PMA, my biggest concern – nay, fear – was that I would be editing something that looked anything like in its current state.

Good news: It doesn’t.

The new has a search function that actually, truly works. The site and its mobile counterpart have been completely redesigned so you can easily find the information that’s most relevant to you and your business.

What’s most exciting to me about the site is its potential to grow along with the industry in the future. There will be more articles, photos and videos from events, as well as fresh content about hot topics in produce and floral.

Now, the important stuff.

Keep in mind that this is YOUR site. What do you want to see more of? Less of? Trust me; I cannot be embarrassed, as evidenced in this video we made about’s makeover.

I really can’t say enough good things about the new site, so here are the “Top 10 Things I’ll Miss” about PMA’s old website.

10. Navigating the site used to be my brain teaser for the day.
9. I can no longer waste an afternoon searching PMA’s site.
8. I know now it is not the website for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
7. I no longer have any use for the magnifying glass I bought to read PMA’s site on my mobile phone.
6. I found out Cookie Monster doesn’t just eat cookies.
5. I found out I’ve been typing George Szczepanski’s name wrong for quite some time.
4. I found out Abraham Lincoln is, in fact, not our CEO.
3. I don’t have to crack the Da Vinci Code to find an answer to my question.
2. I learned PMA’s Dr. Bob Whitaker cannot prescribe my medicine.
1. I think it knows more about me than I do.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 by Kathy Means

New contact info for PACA

The Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Branch of USDA is critical to our industry and provides specific protections for businesses that you can’t get anywhere else. I learned recently that some PACA offices have relocated and some have new email addresses.

The PACA National License Center (NLC) relocated to USDA Headquarters: 14th St. & Independence Ave SW, Room 1522-S, Washington, DC 20250. The NLC’s direct phone line is now (202) 260-8556, and its fax number is (202) 260-8575. Staff e-mails remain the same as does the general e-mail at The offices are now co-located with the Dispute Resolution Branch and the Investigative Enforcement Branch.

The PACA Eastern Region Office is now in Virginia: 100 Riverside Parkway, Suite 101, Fredericksburg, VA 22406 (co-located with the AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program Specialty Crops Inspection Division Training Center). Its new direct phone line is (540) 376-6022; its new fax number is (540) 373-2690. The general customer service e-mail for this office is now Staff e-mails remain the same. The division-wide customer service number remains the same: (800) 495-7222.

PACA’s other offices general e-mails have also been updated.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 by Kathy Means

Produce promotion in Europe, PMA coming to Rotterdam

We heard good news from our friends at Freshfel, the European Fresh Produce Association. In a mid-April press release, the organization noted that the European Parliament reformed agricultural promotion in ways that will benefit the promotion of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Freshfel’s press release noted: “The new framework will increase EU funding for agriculture promotion programmes from roughly 60 million EUR at present to 200 million EUR in 2020, of which the lion share is expected to remain with the fresh fruit and vegetable sector.

“Philippe Binard, General Delegate of Freshfel underlined that ‘the reform will open new opportunity for the sector to get access to increased resources to stimulate the consumption of fresh produce and indicates that the awareness at EU level to get better support for information and communication actions to boost fresh produce consumption’ Freshfel expects that the new promotion policy will come into force in 2015.”

Congratulations to everyone who helped make this happen. Greater consumption worldwide will yield global industry success!

Just a quick reminder that PMA will host Fresh Connections: Netherlands on April 29. If you are interested in the European market, consider attending this event to meet industry leaders and make information connections.

Monday, April 14, 2014 by Kathy Means

Canadian retail leaders share insights on produce

From taste to safety to efficiency, retail produce expectations and predictions were the focus of a five-person retail panel at the recent CPMA convention. Moderated by retail guru Reggie Griffin, the panel included: Bernadette Hamel of Metro Richelieu, Sam Silvestro of Walmart Canada, Oleen Smethurst of Costco, Mike Venton of Loblaw Companies, and Frank Bondi of Sobey’s.

The panel’s chains represent nearly all the retail buying power in Canada, where the retail landscape is more consolidated than in the United States. I’ll share more of their insights in future blog posts, and to kick it off, these were some of their opening thoughts:

  • Venton: How do we make sure it tastes good? Sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot being first to market with products that don’t taste good. We’re making progress, but we have a long way to go.
  • Smethurst: A message to organic growers: Be sure the premium for your products is reasonable. And everyone should be working toward continuous improvement.
  • Hamel: Suppliers can help us fulfill our promise to our customers. Understand our approach and help us deliver. 
  • Bondi: We are the food ambassadors for our customers. We need suppliers to be food ambassadors as well. Help us deliver quick, easy meals – meal solutions.
  • Silvestro: We’re a global company with regional offices. We have different specs in different countries, and we can take the full array of what growers offer. When it comes to direct sourcing, the sky’s the limit.

Stay tuned for more insights from these retailers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 by Kathy Means

Marketing outside the U.S.: Connections and emotions drive sales, decisions

At the recent USDA Ag Outlook Forum, a breakout session on food marketing outside the United States offered insights into a high-volume channel in China based on connecting with consumers and emotional decision-making in Latin America.

One speaker addressed e-commerce in China, noting that in a few years, online shopping in China will surpass the U.S. Whereas U.S. e-commerce evolved from brick and mortar, in China, consumer habits are formed directly by ecommerce. Consumers in China want high-quality, brand name products. Shopping is a leisure activity, it’s entertainment (not just a way to save time). To succeed, marketers must engage consumers. He gave examples of success through TMall:

  • U.S. Northwest Cherry promotion: 84,000 people bought 9 years’ worth of cherries (based on sales at a medium-sized supermarket). Marketers showed government and company executives to build credibility with online consumers. And they showed production and people at the farm. By presenting the cherries’ path from the farm to Chinese kitchens, marketers connected with consumers for high-volume sales results.
  • Alaska Seafood: In 11 days they sold 50 metric tons to almost 34,000 shoppers, the equivalent of 5 months of sales at a warehouse store. The marketing behind the sales included: Showing the clean, natural Alaska environment, thanking the Chinese consumers, showing fishermen with heavy metal music (a takeoff on Deadliest Catch), showing consumers every step of logistics, and closing with ways to prepare and use seafood.

Another speaker addressed sales of processed foods in Latin America and how emotion can trump science, creating challenges for the industry there. The speaker noted:

  • Science is no longer the basis for decisions in public policy in Latin America, he said. He added that NGOs push anti-packaged food and beverage as well as anti-multinational company agendas. Combative narratives where “big food” is linked to “big tobacco” also create challenges. (Aside: The United States is beginning to see efforts to use “big tobacco” strategies with foods that are linked to obesity.)
  • Anti-obesity efforts have resulted in policies defining healthy and unhealthy foods and initiatives to warn consumers away from unhealthy foods. If a food is in that “unhealthy” category, it is a target.

What opportunities and challenges have you seen in marketing through new channels and public policy mindsets? Let’s talk about it in the Global Trade community on PMA Xchange.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 by Kathy Means

Ag outlook: Decidedly…mixed

The recent USDA Ag Outlook Conference offered a platform for information on the state of agriculture in the United States. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack gave topline results from the latest USDA Ag Census (full report to be issued later this spring, delayed due to sequestration and government shutdown):

  • Since 1982, 72 million acres of farmland have been lost, but the loss rate is slowing.
  • Age of principal farm operators is growing. Average age is 58, with many in their 60s and 70s.
  • The number of farms is down. Very small and very large operations held steady or grew. But there is deep concern for what happens in the middle – medium-sized operations feel the greatest stress.
  • The number of minority farm owners is increasing.

Secretary Vilsack offered these takeaways: U.S. agriculture must embrace diversity: operators, crops, markets, land use, workforce, and farming community (he noted the need for immigration reform). And it must expand foreign markets and grow domestic markets. Finally, it must embrace innovation: marketing, markets, technology, crop use.

USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber gave an outlook for U.S. agriculture. Though it was very light on fresh produce information, there were some key takeaways on U.S. ag overall:

  • Exports/imports: FY 2014 U.S. ag exports are expected to top $142 billion. China remains the United States’ top market (top crops are corn and cotton). Imports will hit $110 billion, for a net trade balance of $32.6 billion.
  • Drought in the western United States: California is the top ag state and it struggles with water availability and how to allocate it. Producers have to decide what to plant (and for some whether to plant). For U.S. production, one-third of vegetables and two-thirds of fruits/nuts come from California.
  • Food CPI remains low, forecast at 2.5-3.5% for 2014.
  • Farm income and land values: Income is down from record levels, but still higher than the 10-year average. Farmland values are up due to low interest rates and strong growth in farming.

In the coming days, I’ll have more updates from this year’s Ag Outlook Forum - on topics ranging from consumption to talent management to global trade. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014 by Lee Mannering

USDA report finds fruit, vegetable imports and exports to increase

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recently released USDA Agricultural Projections to 2023 report, fresh produce imports and exports are expected to rise in the next 10 years. The report notes that the value of farm production of fruit and tree nuts is projected to grow at an annual rate of 2.2 percent over the next decade, largely due to sales growth of tree nuts and non-citrus fruits. Fruit and tree nuts are projected to rank first among horticultural crops in terms of farm sales value with a share of 47 percent. Farm sales value of vegetables and pulses is projected to grow 0.2 percent per year, while farm sales of greenhouse and nursery crops are projected to increase at an annual rate of 0.5 percent.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • The volume of U.S. farm production of horticultural crops is projected to rise by 0.4 percent annually. Vegetables lead this growth at an annual rate of 0.5 percent, reaching 132 billion pounds in 2023 as processing production averages 1.5-percent growth. Fruit and nut production expands by 0.2 percent per year to 71 billion pounds in 2023 as non-citrus production growth more than offsets citrus production declines.
  • Producer prices for vegetables initially decline from high 2013 levels and then are projected to rise less than the inflation rate, at only 0.7 percent per year, due to strong processing vegetable production. Producer prices for fresh fruits rise by 1.9 percent per year due to slower production growth than for vegetables and due to higher citrus prices as citrus production declines.
  • U.S. per capita use of fruits and tree nuts increases from 295 pounds in 2013 to 305 pounds by 2023, an annual average growth rate of 0.3 percent. Per capita use of vegetables initially drops in 2013 due to smaller potato and pulse crops, and then levels off to an average 386 pounds. The total supply of fruits, nuts, and vegetables over the next decade, both domestic and imported, is projected to grow at an average rate of 1.2 percent per year.

What do you think of USDA’s study? Let us know in the Global Trade Community on PMA Xchange.

Monday, February 10, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Webinar to discuss U.S.-Canada financial risk mitigation option for fresh produce

Long-time Field to Fork readers may recall Kathy writing about the efforts between the U.S. and Canada (via the Regulatory Country Council’s and the CPMA-led North American Trade Committee’s efforts) to establish a Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act trust-like tool in Canada. As she has noted, the creation of this will benefit PMA members on both sides of the border, facilitate produce trade between the U.S. and Canada, and strengthen the relationships between the two countries.

For those members of the U.S. produce industry interested in the Canadian fresh produce market, on this Friday, February 14 at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, the Canadian government is hosting a Webinar titled “Discussion on Enhancing Financial Risk Mitigation Tools for the Canadian Fresh Produce Sector,” to seek input on enhancing trading practices and financial risk mitigation for the Canadian fresh produce sector.

Last April, Canada announced its decision to consider a new approach to supporting the fair and ethical trade of fresh produce in Canada by addressing the current limitations to the Government’s existing licensing regime. In June, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency began consultations on the Regulatory Framework regarding its Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA), and specific to this initiative were questions regarding industry’s support of a single dispute resolution body. This single body approach is expected to significantly reduce instances of slow, partial and non-payment as well as fraudulent activity within the fresh produce industry.

If you have any questions about the webinar meeting or would like to register, please contact Sem Ponnambalam at