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Los Angeles overcomes disasters to thrive

A healthy economy in California provides boundless opportunities and hurdles for companies at the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. As industry members capitalize on trends, diversity, tourism, and more, they still have problems to solve — read how these benefits and pitfalls are impacting the trade.

Californians joke that the state’s four seasons consist of earthquake, fire, flood, and drought. Golden State growers and suppliers experienced plenty of angst last year and this year, with torrential rains, flooding, and horrific wildfires.

The impact on the Southern California produce industry has been significant, but not as catastrophic as it could have been. According to the Ventura County Agriculture Commission, damages to the county were estimated to involve 10,000 acres of irrigated cropland with 6,600 acres of avocados the most severely affected by last year’s fires, and of these, 1,250 acres suffered direct fire damage. Damages for this year’s wildfires will undoubtedly take a toll as well.

The California Agriculture Commission reported the loss of 8 million pounds of avocados last season—about 2 percent of California’s estimated volume—at a value of over $10 million. The silver lining was that the avocado crop for 2017 was estimated to be nearly double that of the previous year. Other significant losses were in lemons ($5.8 million), oranges ($3.4 million) and vegetables ($4.6 million).

January saw the end of the fires and the start of a short but intense rainy season that triggered mudslides throughout the burn regions, notably in Santa Barbara, blocking roads and snagging transportation on north/south routes. Then, of course, the wildfires started up again in the summer with the Ranch Fire, one of the Mendocino Complex fires in Northern California, gaining the dubious distinction of being largest wildfire in California history.

In the summer, temperatures were so hot a good part of the lemon crop simply fell off trees, causing shortages and prices to soar up to $65 per case.

Ray Davis, president of Pacific Sun Distributing Inc. in Vernon, says, “The farmers took a bath, but we were able to source lemons for accounts that weren’t able to get them.”

All of these factors can cause considerable hiccups in commerce at the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market, but overall, merchants have been buoyed by strong sales.

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.



Amy Sawelson Landes spent many years in advertising and marketing for the food industry; she now writes and blogs about produce.