Dean, Dax, Francis, Paul, Oscar, and Tom hit the ground running with pre-scheduled meetings with some of the La Dona’s former buyers. The reception of the Vergara family returning to the pineapple market was greeted with great excitement. Paul and Francis report that many former customers are ready to start the process of re-engaging purchases from the farm. The first step in the process is usually a farm visit, followed by receiving samples of the product. Many buyers already familiar with the farm might skip one of those steps or both and go straight to an order. As previously mentioned, the focus of PGP’s efforts are on premium relationships, specifically in the air freight and premium container market.
One of the highlights of the event was a meeting with Oppy, a division of Total Produce, which went very well and included a conversation about becoming the premium brand for their customers Harry and David. Additionally, we worked on developing premium shipments to Pacific markets, including the northwestern US and the Vancouver area of Canada. Oppy was a long-time customer of the Vergara family and is very excited to hear the farm is back in business. The conversation is expected to continue in the coming weeks and will likely begin with test shipments in February.
Paul and Dax had an interesting meeting with Melissa’s, which is a Los Angeles based national fruit distributor. During the meeting, the head of purchasing indicated they were looking for Pineapple diversification on points of origin. He also liked the idea of adding an ultra-premium brand with their customers to differentiate and has requested case samples to evaluate larger orders of premium colors.
Another interesting meeting with a large Canadian importer revealed that air cargo shipments from Panama no longer have to clear US customs when passing through US airports, which greatly reduces the risks of shipping to Canada. Price conversations during the event exposed that the East coast has been flooded with the product over the last year and prices in these markets are lower. This is primarily a result of Costa Rica shipping most of its product from the Caribbean port of Limon. West coast pricing is significantly higher due to fewer volumes from Costa Rica. With PGP’s close proximity to the Balboa port in Panama, it has significant advantages of shipping time and cost to hit these higher priced markets. Thus, for US distribution, West Coast will be the focus. European and Asian markets are still paying higher prices because of their desire for quality. Paul and Francis’ upcoming trips to Amsterdam and Shanghai will give us a better idea of how much better the prices are expected to be in 2019.