Frank Camera with SunFed Talks Mexican Eggplant Production and the Market
NOGALES, AZ - The folks over at SunFed are making steady headway as they enter 2018 with hothouse eggplant now in full-swing from the team behind the Perfect Produce® brand. SunFed’s supplies of Perfect Eggplant seek to provide retailers with the much needed volumes as we move through the winter months. As we gain ground in the new year, Director of Sales Frank Camera takes some time to chat with me about the current eggplant market and what we can expect as the season continues to ramp up.
“We are currently in a tight market due to the cold temperatures in the Southeast which have limited supplies from the region, creating a period of high demand,” Frank explains to me. “As trying times have hit many segments of the industry in the recent months, it seems to have propped eggplant up for a successful season. So far, everything is looking good. There is a lot of product that is grown out in open fields, and we actually grow about 90 percent of our eggplant under protected agriculture, so we at SunFed are looking forward to seeing great supply of quality product in the coming months.”
The Mexican eggplant coming out of Nogales is coming in good supply, he shares, as warmer temperatures in Mexico earlier this season have nurtured growth.
“Weather-wise we had a couple of days of cooler weather, but nothing comparable to what was seen in Southeast growing regions. Colder temps are definitely going to have an effect on the market based on the reports we’re hearing,” he shares with me.
I ask Frank how this is impacting the market and he shares that eggplant prices have been climbing recently and going forward, only time and weather will tell.
“Right now we’ve been on a steady upmarket since right after the New Year. We could feel demand immediately, and we’ll probably see a little more upswing before it caps out,” Frank tells me. “We haven’t hit the threshold yet, but with everything that is happening with the freight, it’s hard to say what the threshold will be on the eggplant. My gut is that we’re very close to it because of the elevated costs of the freight.”
For those unfamiliar with what is happening with freight, which we previously reported on, Frank explains to me that due to changes in freight costs and logbooks, “The way people are used to doing business over the years is going to change—order lead times for the customer are going to have to change.”
He clarifies that this in no way is resulting in late eggplant border arrival and delivery; however, the company is sending product to McAllen to help customers in the Midwest and on the East Coast to take advantage of the hopefully reduced freight rates through the portal. The company’s tactical approach, forking the importation of the coveted produce item, allows it to enter the market from multiple distribution angles and address a broader spectrum of consumers.
When I ask Frank to expand upon the timeline of tighter than usual supply, though, it seems to be a steady concern that will trail further into this coming season.
“Over the next months we will see increased demand due to the Easter demand, but as we move towards the spring, the Southeast crop will be back in,” he shares.
As eggplant season carries on, the company looks to its shade houses to carry it through the harsh weather and current freight conditions, no doubt prepped and primed for a fruitful season as it tackles these difficult-to-navigate challenges.