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Now Entering Nogales – Part III: Trials and Tribulations

Moving forward and putting its stamp on the North American produce trade
MS_Now Entering Nogales

Read Part I
Part II

Trials and Tribulations

Although business is certainly booming in Nogales, regional produce distributors continue to face both new and old problems. Fortunately, the FPAA is ready and willing to help, in person, and with plenty of information on its website.

“We, as an association, continuously deal with challenges by addressing them, finding alternative solutions, and preparing our members with seminars, workshops, and discussions,” Jungmeyer says. These issues can range from banking and financial woes to the increasingly complex food safety regulations taking effect in 2017. And then there are the things FPAA can’t really do much about—like weather and related consequences.

Wild Weather
Yes, an ever-present issue for Nogales distributors and shippers is unpredictable weather—both in Mexican growing areas and across the United States.

“The weather seems to be different every winter,” points out Jungmeyer. “Unexpected cold snaps in the Midwest and Northeast can really hurt demand from consumers and grocery stores. Meanwhile, in some years, we’ve seen heavy rains and cool weather in west Mexican growing areas, which can delay crops.”

For Jose Luis Obregon, president of IPR Fresh, it wasn’t rain but higher temperatures. “This year, the greatest challenge has been the warmer than usual weather on the Southeast coast, which has caused a season overlap.”

“Weather is weather, and we will deal with the circumstances,” says Havel. “This is a supply and demand business, and storms can of course cause shortages, which drive the prices up.”

And then there are the El Niño and La Niña weather patterns. “With La Niña, the temperatures stay cooler than normal, which could have an effect on the size of fruit,” Suarez explains. “If the sizes on our products stay smaller than normal, that means less yield per acre, which could result in lower supplies.”

Fortunately, forecasters predicted La Niña as a no-show for the winter season. In September, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association cancelled its La Niña watch, saying there was a 55 to 60 percent chance for more “neutral conditions” this winter.

Food Safety
Of course, food safety is another ongoing challenge for Nogales distributors, particularly as they import the bulk of their product from Mexico.

“We’re helping train members in food safety,” says Jungmeyer, and the FPAA included several seminars in its November convention. “This included guidance on what kind of food safety training and certifications a company needs to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and which types of food safety training will be most relevant to a company.”