Sutherland Produce to sell “world’s most expensive” cherry gift box in China
When importers ask for firm, glistening fruit, this probably isn’t what they have in mind.
As if cherry prices weren’t high enough, Canada-based company Sutherland Produce has introduced the “world’s most expensive” cherry gift box, including a 1oz .9999 solid gold cherry.
“This will be our first season offering the gold cherry gift box. Knowing the Chinese regularly offer fruit as gifts and give extravagant gifts to close family, friends and employees, we thought let’s create the ultimate cherry gift box,” Sutherland director of sales Rick Chong tells Fresh Fruit Portal.
He says the gold cherries will be completed this week, to be offered with the company’s Canadian cherries.
“They will have a numbered certificate of authenticity. Interest has been strong throughout Asia,” he says.
Back to actual cherries not made out of gold, Chong says the group offers several brands in China with tiered pricing, including premium labels for the high-end market and normal brands for supermarkets.
“All are meeting or surpassing China’s high expectations. Developing brand loyalty is a priority for us,” he says.
“We uniquely offer fruit from many countries globally. This helps us continue gaining market share and allows our clients one-stop headache free shopping.
“We continue to improve cherry quality each year by being on the ground for our sea arrivals. This allows us to see how the fruit arrives at destination, and go back to the shed and fix any arrival issues we encounter.”
He adds online sales in China continue to grow at a “phenomenal rate”.
“We have increased our array of packaging to target this segment growth area. Moving to 1kg & 2.5kg gift boxes is one of our strategies this year,” he says.
“Developing logistics hubs in secondary-tier cities in China will allow us to drop ship efficiently. Where they will be delivered by our clients direct to consumers.”
When asked about the upcoming seasons across the major Northern Hemisphere growing regions, he says Washington State and Canadian crops are shaping up for harvests a few days later than last year.
“This is the first time since 2014 that we are seeing normal weather patterns. Weather has been very good and we are anticipating good volumes for both growing regions,” he says.
“Export demand is showing strong interest, with China and Southeast Asia being our top markets.
“We are projecting export packing to begin June 16 in Washington and June 27 in Canada. With the latter Autumn Moon Festival this year of Oct. 4, the timing of the Canadian deal is ideal for good arrivals by sea.”
He adds Spain has just started its volumes for export markets outside the EU, and its late season would definitely impact North American exports to the EU this season.
“Continued cool weather had slowed maturity for the last couple of weeks,” he says.
“Export varieties include Chelan, Sequoia, Red Pacific, Frisco and Rocket. Quality looks excellent, with strong demand from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, India and the Middle East.”
Regarding the world’s largest cherry grower Turkey, the country is a “work in progress” for Sutherland Produce which seeks to lift cultivation and post-harvest standards to meet the requirements of international markets.
“They eventually are going to enter our markets in a big way. Exporting poor quality fruit or varieties will impact returns for every grower in Washington, Canada and Spain,” he says.
“Working with growers in Turkey on orchard development, spray techniques, picking fruit, packing and the cold chain will strengthen prices and keep export markets stabilized. Most importantly, this is one of our specialties.”
He adds while Turkey’s production of the Kordia and Regina varieties has been encouraging, the majority of the crop is of the cultivar “0900 Ziraat” – known as “Napoleon” in the West, which is too soft for Asian markets.
On a global scale he adds maximum residue limits (MRLS) are affecting growers, and Sutherland continues to find new safe methods to meet the criteria.
“This is a good thing. We implement new spray programs that continue to ensure fruit is healthier than ever to consume,” he says.
The upgrading of technologies to meet the higher expectations of clients is rapidly being implemented by more growers, investing millions annually to maintain and increase market share.”
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Stonefruit and cherries were among the most severely affected crops from the heavy frosts over much of Europe in mid-April and there will likely be significant market impacts for certain commodities, according to a private consultant.
In a report, Netherlands-based Ronald Vermeulen, who also heads up a pome fruit and cherry research station for produce company Fruitmasters, gave an overview of the damages from the frosts over April 18 and 19 that hit much of the continent.
Affected countries include Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and the U.K.
Earlier this week, Philippe Binard, general delegate for European fresh produce industry forum Freshfel, said the frosts were “unprecedented.”
Vermeulen told Fresh Fruit Portal apples and pears were also affected by the adverse weather, but the total volumes of fruit available would depend upon the variety, specific region, and growers’ levels of frost protection.
Within the stonefruit category he believed the most significant market effect in Europe would be seen in apricots, plums and cherries, as nectarines and peaches were both widely grown across Spain, Italy and Turkey, which were far less affected than countries in northern Europe.
There were also more severe frosts last week that affected Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, although Vermeulen said not enough information was available on that situation to provide any commentary.
“Season 2017 in Europe started very early with bud break, due to optimal early weather conditions in March,” he said in the report.
“Full bloom stage of pears in Northwest Europe was around April 10 (compared to April 21 in 2016) and full bloom for apples was on average one week later.”
He added in much of Italy’s major apple growing region of South Tyrol, the full bloom stage was about 14 days earlier than the previous year.
“In the nights of April 18 and 19 temperatures dropped to -6ºC or more (for a long period of 6-8 hours) in several regions of Europe, in a stage of full bloom in apples.
“Also on the nights of April 20 (in South Tyrol) 26, 30 and May 10, temperatures dropped below 0ºC. In this period temperatures during the day didn’t rise above 10 C during day time. Recovery of flowers and pollination circumstances were very poor.
“Every fruit growing region in Northern and Eastern Europe has been hit by frost and has been damaged to some extent, except for the southern parts in Spain and Italy.”
He said plums, cherries and apricots were generally the most affected by the frosts in Europe, with many people speaking of losses of around 60-80%.
“It’s the same in apples, but depending on the regions and varieties. Also in the regions with less damage the frost there will be a negative impact on fruit quality at harvest,” he said, highlighting Jonagold as one apple variety that was particularly sensitive to the cold and had been widely affected.”
Overall he said the effect on total production for 2017 in Europe was not yet known, but would become clearer in the coming weeks.
“I’ve seen totally devastated orchards because of snowfall in Southern Germany and Switzerland where they had snowfall on April 30 and constructions collapsed by closed hail nets because of the heavy weight,” he said.
“On the other hand, fruit set on cherries, pears (Abate Fetel) and apples (Gala and Pink Lady) in parts of Italy and Spain were very good without damage at all.”
“The spring frost in 2017 in Europe will have an effect on the production and fruit quality and will vary from region to region in extreme contrast of nearly empty orchards to normal and good production in areas with frost protection.”
There has also been frost damage to blueberries, but Vermeulen said the crop generally bloomed later than other crops and so was less affected.
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European growers still assessing “unprecedented” frost impacts, says Freshfel chief
Sudden bouts of frost, plummeting temperatures, rainfall and even hail across Europe have left an air of uncertainty hanging over the heads of growers.
According to Philippe Binard, general delegate for European fresh produce industry forum Freshfel, “unprecedented frosts” in multiple European countries have left a trail of destruction across several crops, including stonefruit, apples and pears.
However it is still too early to put any real figure on production losses or how badly quality may be affected.
Frosts have hit much of Europe recently including Austria, France, Greece, Turkey, Poland, Belarus, the Ukraine, Italy, the U.K. and the Czech Republic. They followed serious weather conditions at the start of the year in key growing regions in Spain, and to a lesser extent Italy, which badly damaged vegetable and salad crops, leading to shortages in Europe.
“We have been following this because it is unprecedented frosts affecting different crops in different countries. However, at this stage, it is very difficult to put a figure on both the quantitative and qualitative consequences of the frost because there are still a number of assessments that are being made,” Binard tells Fresh Fruit Portal.
“Nature has obviously been affecting crops, but it could also help the production to revive a little bit. We do not know yet.
“What is sure is that there will be a very unusual crop for a number of stone fruits and the frosts will definitely severely impact the apple and pear season. And really when you look at apple and pears, most of the main producing countries have been affected; Poland, Italy, France and also central European countries like Hungary and Austria.”
Binard adds how some Balkan countries outside of the EU have also been affected, as well as the Ukraine.
“This is something that is massively impacting the whole of continental Europe, and this is why it’s a serious issue.
“Most of the contacts that we have in different countries are telling us that they are conducting an additional assessment because each of the orchards might have a different story, and therefore to put the figures together now is something that is quite difficult.”
Binard also says that the latest bout of frosts came at a time when some seasons were already quite advanced due to a mild winter across many European countries.
“There are a lot of different situations across the European region. In some growing situations there has been fruit that has already flowered, but now the possibility of having a second flowering may be affected.
“And because of the mild winter in several countries across Europe, the season for some crops was already a bit more advanced and there were a number of trees that were bearing little fruits.
“This fruit has been affected but is continuing to grow so I think all of that means we need to assess whether that will be a qualitative loss or something else.”
Freshfel will be closely monitoring the situation and production losses will become clearer in the coming weeks once assessments have been finalized.
“If we want to be serious with our estimations and the impact of the frosts, I think it’s too dangerous at this point to come with some figures and be wrong. The picture will become clearer in the first fortnight of June,” Binard adds.
Freshfel has a number of meetings scheduled with growers and organizations in the weeks ahead.
“In this sector we are used to climatic problems. Look at what has happened this last winter with vegetables from Spain and Italy. We are a sector that is used to climatic havoc which impacts on production and could also impact on consumption.
“If we have a very cold summer in our region, there is not so much of a demand for peaches, nectarines or tomatoes and so on.”
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While Turkey’s leading cherry grower Alara has access to a new market in China, the group sees strong demand in the EU and Russia.
In a statement given to http://www.freshfruitportal.com, a spokesperson for the company said the Turkish cherry season looked set to start in mid-May with volumes to carry through to the last week of July.
“Up until now there have been no climate-related problems in terms of adverse impacts on cherry production. We hope that the size and fruit quality will be good for this year,” said Senih Yazgan, chairman of the Uludag Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Exporters Association which counts Alara as one of its members.
“This year will be to understand of China market condition for Turkish exporters. Therefore I expect that limited amount of cherry will be exported for 2016. I guess that main cherry export to China will be taking place in 2017.
“We will plan to send the products by air for this year, but we are organizing full cargo flight and sea transportation for the next year.”
Yazgan said Turkey’s main cherry variety was 0900 Ziraat, while production has increased over recent years for varieties like Regina, Kordia, Sweetheart and Skeena.
“Ziraat variety’s characteristics are very similar to the Regina. It has long stem, dark red color, sweet and hard.”
The executive said Alara had never sent any crops to China before, and had mostly focused on exporting cherries and black figs to EU countries.
“And there is big demand for Turkish cherry and black fig from all EU countries and Russia.
“In other words, Russia has not embargoed cherries and black figs from Turkey. Therefore the prices of these products are still high.”
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