We talked to Dante Galeazzi, President and CEO of the Texas International Produce Association, BB #:162361 Mission, TX, at the end of 2019.
What about the produce business keeps you up at night?
This is such a big question, with many nuances. If I had to narrow it down to one topic, though, it’s the liability factor—especially for our smaller growers. Many industries have a limited liability structure in place, but not so for the domestic grower or importer. All the responsibility for a food safety outbreak lies with them, and their exposure during such an event could be enough to cause long-term financial ruin, even to a large sized organization.
Over the course of my professional career, I have seen companies fold as a result of recalls, implications, and even from so little as an affiliation. The fact that it could happen to any one of the many industry organizations throughout the country, and without warning, worries me.
What keeps you optimistic?
The fact that we sell the original “superfood”—fresh fruits and vegetables! As a parent, I know what a challenge it is to get kids to eat healthily. It makes me want to jump for joy every time my kids ask for a banana, or apple, or mango before they ask for a snack.
Or the fact that more and more scientific evidence is coming to light about the impacts of processed and preserved foods. Our industry is the first “healthy” trend ever invented. We sell nutrition. We sell health. We sell flavor. We sell “good for you.”
What’s great about my position is I get to work with everyone—growers, packers, marketers, seed, chemical, transportation, service—everyone is impacted by fresh produce. How can someone not be optimistic in this industry?
Farmers are the original champions of sustainability; cultivating the land to feed the masses. New varieties yield higher production, longer seasons, and more flavor. Marketing is bringing attention, in new ways, to items consumers considered in the past few decades as salad toppings. Chefs are bringing produce to the center of the plate. Diets are focusing more in depth on the various health benefits of different fresh produce items.
Let’s face it, fads may come and go, but humans will always need fresh fruits and vegetables to be healthy. And something we have going in our favor is that more and more health experts are saying—“Stop eating the other stuff and start eating your fruits and veggies!”—and many more consumers are starting to heed that message.
The fresh fruit and vegetable industry is poised to not only make a difference, but to become the go-to section of the grocery store!
This is multi-part feature adapted from the Rio Grande Valley Supplement in the January/February 2020 issue of Produce Blueprints.