In-shell nuts are a major category, particularly as the holiday season approaches, for A.J. Trucco Inc., a wholesaler, importer and distributor located on New York City’s Hunts Point Terminal Market.
This year, supplies will be tight and prices high on many items in the nut category, according to Salvatore (Sal) Vacca, president of the company.
Trucco, which marks its 75th anniversary this year, “began in 1937 amid the aisles of the old Washington Produce Market in downtown Manhattan,” according to the company website. In 1965, Mr. Vacca “bought the company and relocated to the Hunts Point Terminal Market in the Bronx. For three decades, he grew and transformed the company into a successful enterprise. In 1999, he partnered with Nick Pacia and together they continued Trucco’s long tradition of importing and distributing Italian chestnuts as well as expanded the company’s list of available commodities to include kiwifruit, citrus, grapes and figs as well as a wide array of dried fruits and nuts.
There is little new at Trucco for fall 2012. The company will continue doing “mainly the same things we have been doing for years,” Mr. Vacca told The Produce News Oct. 22. But the season itself will be different than most years.
“It’s going to be a rough season because the prices are high” for many products in the nut category, he said. “I don’t want to be too pessimistic, but due to the price and due to the economy that we are going through, I have a little doubt that we will have as good a season as last year.”
A major reason for the high prices is growing demand for the products from China. “China has been buying quite a few more nuts from the States than they did in other years,” Mr. Vacca said. “We expected that they wouldn’t come in, due to the economic situation in China, but they still came in. And, of course, they raised prices.”
That is mainly true for walnuts, almonds and pecans, he said. “So for those nuts, we expect higher prices than last year.”
Chestnuts will be high-priced this year as well, Mr. Vacca said. The Italian chestnut crop is “very short. The season just started. The Italian shippers are telling us that it is about 40 percent lower than last year, therefore, we are going to have higher prices.”
Will consumers “pay these higher prices? We don’t know,” he said. “We will find out closer to the holidays.”
Imported figs will be in tight supply and higher priced this year as well, “due to the situation in Europe” with the euro and also due to a short crops in Greece and Italy, he said. California also had a short crop. “The only figs that the price is pretty good are the Turkish.”
Trucco offers Greek figs and Turkish figs “under our own label,” Mr. Vacca said.
“Customers seem to like us very much because we are a company that has been in business for many, many years that is responsible. They know when we put a ‘Trucco’ label on a product that it is high quality. Otherwise, we won’t do it. And we have been very successful with that,” he said.
There are some items in the dried fruit and nuts categories that do have good supplies and reasonable prices, Mr. Vacca said.
“Dates are OK,” he said. “There is no mentioning of raising prices.”
One item on which “the price has dropped quite a bit” is peanuts, he said. “But of course, it is a different item — an item that we sell all year round, therefore I wouldn’t consider it a holiday item. But prices are quite a bit lower than last year.”
For most items in the dried fruit and nut category, however, the holidays are a strong demand period, and for some items demand has been growing domestically as well as globally. In dates, “we are seeing an increase into the Muslim holidays,” Mr. Vacca said. Also, demand for walnuts, almonds and filberts has been growing. “The only nut that we haven’t seen any increase in is the Brazilian, because Brazilian nuts are very expensive compared to other nuts.”