“We’re moving a lot more offshore products, especially items like hard squashes, from Honduras,” said Lou Pizzo, president of Lou Pizzo LLC, in Pompano Beach, FL. “The demand for hard squashes is maintaining through the spring months. We’re still using a lot of summer squashes, such as zucchini and yellow crookneck, but there is definitely more action than there used to be on hard squashes today.”
Mr. Pizzo added that the company also had a very strong Honduran cucumber program this past winter. As of early March the program was almost done, but he sees it continuing in the future.
“Domestic cucumbers during the winter can be problematic because they are subject to weather issues,” he said. “We can get them more easily from Honduras without these risks. Here it’s common for cold snaps to move in periodically, followed by warm spells. Last fall was warm, and we had so much product at times that we got ahead of ourselves. In January it turned cooler and we had some wind. That caused things like summer squashes, beans, eggplant and other items to be on the tight side. Now, in early March, we’re running two weeks later than normal. That trend will continue through central Florida’s crop.”
He added that as the spring evolves, supply gaps will not be as far apart, and at times will be closer together. But in early March the demand was exceeding supply every day.
“We’re loading more trucks with a little of each item, and loading three times a week rather than five times a week just to keep a steady supply,” he said. “It’s important to keep a foot in the door at all times.”
Lou Pizzo also pulls some Mexican product out of Nogales, AZ, but Mexican growers also had cooler weather during the winter. The shortages combined have kept the markets tight.
“As of today [March 7], all items, including green beans, zucchini and yellow squash are at $30 a box or better,” said Mr. Pizzo. “While there’s really no ‘normal’ in the produce business, you’d typically see these items at between $14 and $18. Only pickings from older fields are available now, and younger fields aren’t yet ready.”
Besides its location at the Pompano State Farmers Market, Lou Pizzo operates in Vineland, NJ, where it began in business in 1980. The New Jersey facility is larger, providing the company with the ability to load and distribute from it. It also offers cold storage services. It offers cooling, hydrocooling, forced air cooling and vacuum cooling.
“If a customer wants product cooled in a specific way, we’ll do it,” said Mr. Pizzo. “We are highly experienced in what products need what type of cooling, and so we offer our advice on proper procedures.
Mr. Pizzo said the Vineland facility would start moving some leafy items in mid- to late April.
Repacking, distribution services and cold storage are significant components of Lou Pizzo. It operates in all growing regions in Florida, and moves north with the seasons.
The firm offers a year-round supply of a full line of vegetables. It specializes in spaghetti, butternut, acorn, yellow and green squash varieties, beans, eggplant, cucumbers, pickles, cantaloupes and mixed vegetables. It also handles a full line of leafy vegetables, including escarole, dill, mint, parsley, endive and arugula.
Lou Pizzo also operates a field-check system from the Pompano location. Mr. Pizzo said field inspectors often travel long distances to check on crop conditions and timing.
“Field inspectors are imperative for several reasons,” said Mr. Pizzo. “It’s important to know all the areas you’re working in at all times. The weather can change quickly, and the person in the field keeps us updated on what’s going to happen to a crop within a couple of weeks. This ensures the best price for customers, and it prevents sudden problems that could cause shortages or gluts.”
Lou Pizzo’s business is in a status quo condition, which Mr. Pizzo said is a great place to be today. He said that he feels fortunate to have maintained a trading membership in the Blue Book since 1991.