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Cali Commerce: Setting Trends

Brain teasers on the nation’s perishables powerhouse
Test Your Knowledge

Sunshine, beaches, mountains, valleys—the Golden State is a land of plenty, but its beauty belies a number of mounting challenges. “California is a critical piece in the production of fruits and vegetables,” says Kathy Means, vice president of industry relations at the Produce Marketing Association. “If something happens to California, it happens to all of us.”

You’ve done business in California for years—but how much do you really know about the state’s agriculture? How bad is the drought? What’s the status of the Medfly and other pests? What about ports, retailers, and restaurants? We talked to experts throughout California’s produce supply chain to answer these questions and more. Take our quiz and celebrate your knowledge…or, catch up on what’s happening in the Golden State’s fresh fruit and vegetable trade.

THE WATER SITUATION: According to the final California Department of Water Resources snow survey report back on May 1, the state’s snowpack in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains was recorded at only 7 percent of normal.
True: News on California water did not get better this year, despite many wishes to the contrary. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared 54 drought-ridden California counties as natural disaster areas. In March of this year, California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed a $687 million relief package calling the drought “the worst in the state’s modern history” according to Reuters.

Loretta Yim, sales coordinator at L.A.-based Yes Produce agrees water is a big issue right now, but she sees little resolution. “We’re trying not to use too much water, but in the produce industry,” she emphasizes, “we need to use so much on a daily basis—and we have no control of the weather.”

“This is very serious,” comments Means. “Growers are making choices about where they put their water, and they’re going to go with areas that have the highest investments—(like) groves.”

Even within groves, some tough decisions are being made. Chris Ford, vice president of San Diego-based Sutherland Produce Sales, Inc., says he has even seen growers decide to divert water to younger trees and perhaps abandon older ones. It’s important to manage water tables by monitoring wells and groundwater, because, he notes, “It’s less and less reliable to have rainfall to fill up the aquifers.”