It has been a topsy-turvy year for Florida, weather- and market-wise, with record high temperatures in January and record lows in March. In fact, Joel Silverman of Paradise Produce Distributors Inc. in Lakeland, FL thinks 2013 might be the most unpredictable year he has seen in his three decades in the business.
“I’ve been in this business 30 years plus and this is probably the strangest deal I’ve ever been involved in. But I’ve probably said that 29 previous years also,” Mr.Silverman said.
But there are other factors involved in Florida’s 2013 markets, from labor shortages to disease pressures to “the way the weather has treated us, the [competitive] pressure we have from Mexico [and] fewer Florida growers involved with the deal,” Mr. Silverman said. “And the growers that do remain appear to be growing less product in order to maintain their market. That has made this spring certainly more challenging for me but I think for the industry, decreased supply is their attempt to keep the markets at a point where they can at least make a little bit of money.”
And Mr. Silverman’s goal is to help customers do the same thing. As a full-service distributor, Paradise is a true one-stop shop.
“We are full-service distributors — one phone call to us and we can buy anything from apples to zucchini, arrange the transport, there’s one invoice and there is some cost saving doing business with a firm like ours,” Mr. Silverman said.
In fact, with wild markets and uncertain supplies, the distributor’s role is more critical than ever, especially a company like Paradise that controls much of its own trucking and transport needs.
“We’ve got a good, strong customer base. We’ve been dealing with some of the same people since the day we opened and our philosophy is the more our customers sell, the more we sell, so we try to keep people priced correctly,” Mr. Silverman said. “We have an advantage in that we run a lot of our own trucks rather than going through brokers or transportation services — the trucks do help us with control over delivery times. But basically we just come in here every day, try to do the best we can and come back the next day.”
What Mr. Silverman would like in coming weeks is “some nice, consistent weather. This has been a really rough winter with the fluctuations in temperatures. We didn’t have hard freezes but it would be nice to have some stability to some of these markets, constant supplies, a couple of days in the 80s and nights in the 60s wouldn’t hurt anything. The wild fluctuations in temperatures took a toll on a lot of produce this year and drove some of the markets absolutely wild reaching almost unprecedented heights with marginal quality. April comes around in this state, you’re usually in the 70s; we need some good sustained weather to put some shelf life in this product.”
The Florida industry could also use an end to the cold weather in the Northeast.
“It’s been a cold winter so people have not been out barbecuing or hanging out on their patio,” Mr. Silverman said. “So I’m hoping there’s pent-up demand up North and people will start going outside more when the weather breaks.”