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Al Murray, assistant secretary of agriculture for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, headquartered in Trenton, NJ, told The Produce News that the upcoming Canadian Produce Marketing Association Convention & Trade Show, being held in Toronto April 17-19, presents a great opportunity for the department to promote the state’s agricultural products.

008Al Murray“We have a mutually beneficial relationship with Canada, particularly the eastern part of the country,” said Mr. Murray. “Our top markets are, respectively, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, New England and Canada. We work very well with our Canadian partners because when New Jersey’s leafy greens are just coming into season in April, it is still pretty cool in Canada. Growers there are just getting started with their crops. And when we’re wrapping up for the season, they are just getting started.

Mr. Murray will be representing the NJDA at the CPMA convention at Booth 1234.

He noted that fresh fruits and vegetables are central to the typical diet for the Canadian population.

“Fresh produce is essential to the Canadian diet,” said Mr. Murray. “People there consume a lot of blueberries, spring vegetables and just about all other produce items, and we supply them with a lot of what they eat during their off seasons. Our seasons complement each other, and so it makes for a nice, orderly marketing flow.”

Of this season’s New Jersey crops, Mr. Murray said that when you have a season when snow is on the ground on one day and it is 80 degrees the next, things have a way of getting off schedule.

Severe fluctuations in temperatures could mean that everything will be coming on at one time. That is not the case this year, however.

“Knock on wood, we’re having a normal season this year,” he said. “Last year was really up and down with major temperature swings, so this is a welcome relief, despite the fact that it’s been cold, wet and gray since November. But that bleak weather does the job of keeping the buds closed on our peaches, blueberries, apples and other crops until nature says it’s time to warm them up in preparation for opening.”

New Jersey growers, he said March 19, would likely be trying to get into their fields in the coming week because the first of the leafy items — like lettuces and spinach — will start coming on. The earliest to market have the advantage of getting the higher out-of-the-gate prices.

“We are looking forward to seeing our existing customers and prospective new ones at the CPMA conference,” said Mr. Murray. “This show provides us with the opportunity to reinforce our partnerships with retailers, wholesalers and foodservice operators. I really enjoy visiting the Ontario markets, especially when I see the ‘Jersey Fresh’ logo on boxes in the warehouses.

“This expo is smaller than the PMA Fresh Summit,” he continued. “It is more intimate and we get really good face time with old friends and we look forward to meeting new ones. Overall it’s a very nice show.”