Friday, January 8, 2010

Economy forces cutbacks, but advertising priorities remain high

The repercussions of the economic downturn are still being felt for suppliers of winter produce from Central America and the Caribbean. Suppliers say they are trimming costs and looking for new ways to provide value and keep sales flat this year.

“We’re hoping that there has been a little boost of the economy,” said Lou Kertesz, vice president of Fresh Quest Produce, Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., who said the industry is also hoping demand will pick up in what is becoming a smaller marketplace for exporters. “Every year less and less growers are involved in the Central American deal. It is survival of the fittest, down to three of us as main shippers.”

Larry Leighton, president of Caribbean Fruit Connection Corp., Miami, said many in the industry are working extremely close to their margins, and the risk of credit is becoming especially poignant right now.

“We are being very, very prudent on our sales and extension of credit, and our customers are telling us that they are doing the same. So that activity in itself tends to contract the market,” he said. “You hear people say, ‘We sell what we know we can collect for.’”

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