“This year, we saw a huge increase in interest in kale as well as broccoli crowns,” points out Thomas Tramutola, Jr., vice president of marketing at A & J Produce Corporation. “Romaine hearts are on the rise, while romaine heads are less in demand.”
In addition to ethnic drivers, Hunt says the media and publicity are boosting produce. “In general, the spotlight on fruits and vegetables is very good,” he says. “Everywhere you turn, you see news that eating fruits and vegetables is good and healthy. I think the general publicity is helping and that the culture of eating is turning more positively towards going back to whole foods and fruits and vegetables.”
Weather: Bad Winter, Good Spring
Weather, of course, can have a significant influence on supply and demand. Two years ago, an early frost wiped out almost 70 percent of the fruit crops in northern New England, causing shortages and price spikes, followed by record crop yields last year.
Overall, merchants at Hunts Point reported solid business at the market this year, despite a tough winter that brought severe storms and several days of closure at the market.
“We had a very rough winter,” confirms Tramutola. “Missing a day out of every week is hard to make up, and because of the winter, a lot of product came to market a little later this year,” he noted. Fortunately, as temperatures warmed up, the market’s pace increased and wholesalers were busy, with ample supply and good prices offsetting some of the difficulties earlier in the year.
Alisha Albinder, operations manager at the aptly named Hudson River Fruit Distributors, located in Milton, along the Hudson River, says, “Business is very good this year. Last year was one of the biggest crops that New York has ever seen; this year is looking to be about average, but the apples look good and the weather has been good.” Although Albinder said a “few scary storms rolled through” the region, the summer months were predominantly mild with no major damage.
Although Hudson River Fruit is more than 80 miles from Hunts Point in the Bronx, the grower-shipper sends its apples and other fruit to the market several times a week. “We have a truck going to Hunts Point about every other day,” Albinder says. “It’s the central hub for produce and one of our biggest customers.”
Fres Co’s DiMaggio also commented on last winter’s weather, admitting it was “a little rough. But the market came back in March, April, and May—the spring definitely made up for it.” As one of the newest merchants at the market, DiMaggio renovated the company’s space a few years ago.