Thursday, May 31, 2007

Florida Avocado Industry Expects Big Rebound

By Doug Ohlemeier
Florida avocado grower-shippers began their new season in late May with higher production and quality and more optimism following successive years of hurricanes that damaged their groves.

Growers began first pickings May 21. While growers are expecting to pick avocados in light volume through the end of June, promotable volume isn’t expected until the Fourth of July holiday, shippers said.

Florida normally ships avocados from the Fourth of July through the Super Bowl, with volume decreasing in February and in March.Estimates call for up to 1 million bushels or 4.4 million equivalent 12.5-pound flats, double last season’s 520,792 bushels, or 2 million equivalent flats.

Neal Palmer “Pal” Brooks, owner of Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc., the deal’s leading grower-shipper, said he has not seen such quality since 2003, Florida’s last normal avocado shipping season.


During the 2006-07 season, Miami-Dade County production was rebuilding from the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes that ravaged the region.Brooks Tropicals plans to ship 550,000 bushels or 2.2 million equivalent 12.5-pound flats, about half of the deal’s avocados, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing.

A drought that has scorched south Florida produce production hasn’t harmed the region’s avocado trees, she said. Ostlund said the region has experienced average to below-average rainfall. She said the season should bring nice sizings. Ostlund said she thinks there should be plenty of 10-12 count avocados — among the most popular sizes. While Florida avocado sizings range from the larger 7s to the smaller 24s, the 7s, 8s, 9s, 10s and 12s account for a majority of production, she said.

Peter Leifermann, president of Fresh King Inc., Homestead, said he expects July and August to bring a huge crop that will offer many opportunities for retail promotions.“The people I’ve talked to say the trees out there are breaking,” he said. “The limbs are breaking because there’s so much fruit on them.”

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Is That Safe to Eat?

excerpt from Family Circle Magazine, May 2007

Buying organic fruits and veggies is expensive, but it may pay off in certain cases. Research suggests that you can lower your pesticide exposure by up to 90% by avoiding the 12 most contaminated varieties (These are shown in the chart to the left under high in pesticides) and opting for organic instead.
Brooks Tropicals' editorial note: papayas and avocadoes are listed in the 'Low in Pesticides' column.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Papayas and Florida Avocados Make the Latin American Diet Pyramid

Papayas and Florida avocados - or SlimCados - have made the Latin American Diet Pyramid published by the Latino Nutrition Coaliton. Camino Magico, the Coalition's recent publication, lists papayas and Florida avocados as food that should be eaten frequently for a healthy diet.

For more information, click here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

SlimCados, Florida Avocados Should Bounce Back in Big Way

By Doug Ohlemeier

Rebounding from years of hurricane damage, Florida avocado grower-shippers expect a big boost in production.Volume is expected to be twice as much as last season’s.Florida’s pickings normally start in late May and pick up with promotable volume during mid-June and July.

The state is expected to ship 950,000-1 million bushels or 4.4 million equivalent 12.5-pound flats, said Alan Flinn, administrator of the Homestead-based Florida Avocado Administrative Committee, which oversees the federal Florida avocado marketing order.Last year, the state’s grower-shippers, centered in Miami-Dade County, packed 520,792 bushels, or 2 million equivalent flats.

“We are expecting a very good season,” Flinn said. “We got by last year better than we expected. Our main concern has been keeping the hurricanes away.”Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, which struck Florida in fall 2005, damaged trees and caused the state to produce about half of the normal crop last year.

Though some growers had already begun early pickings May 14, Homestead-based grower-shipper Brooks Tropicals Inc. had not finalized its start, but was considering to begin harvesting by May 28, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing.“We’re so excited about this year’s crop of SlimCados,” she said. “This year, we’re back. After two years of slim pickings because of Wilma and Katrina, the SlimCados are back,” Ostlund said.Brooks grows and ships its SlimCado line of avocados.

Neal Palmer "Pal" Brooks, Brooks’ owner, in mid-May saw many good-looking flowers with fruit on them, Ostlund said.“Based on what we see flowering and what we see in the fruit actually growing, we think it will be a good year,” she said. “Quality should be excellent.”

Brooks expects to ship 550,000 bushels or 2.2 million equivalent flats this season, about half of the deal’s avocados.

Because shipments had not begun yet, the U.S. Department of Agriculture wasn’t reporting Florida prices in mid-May.Last season, Florida’s deal started at $16 per 12.5-pound flat in June. By late July, prices had declined to $12 a flat.Florida shippers received $10-12 per flat during the months of last season’s deal.

In July, 12s are common while 9s hit in September, Brooks’ Ostlund said.The drought hasn’t hindered Brooks’ avocados, Ostlund said.Though this season hasn’t been a banner year for rain, Brooks has come out okay, she said.

Though shippers pack Florida avocados in half-bushel and 4/5-bushel containers, they ship a majority of them in the quarter-bushel or flat containers, Flinn said.Because of a lack of funding, the avocado administrative committee hasn’t conducted any recent acreage surveys and Flinn declined to provide acreage information.

Florida produced an average 6,000 bearing acres since the 2000-01 season, 9% of U.S. avocado acreage, according to USDA

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

All Eyes on Belize

American Airlines Inflight Magazine - AmericanWay (excerpt from article)

Increasing awareness of "made in Belize" premium products has driven up demand for everything from local papayas to orange juice and eco-tourism. Investors such as US tropical produce company Brooks Tropicals is one of the success stories of Belize's niche-oriented quality approach to competition.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Gilmore Girls Features Photo of a Caribbean Sunrise Papaya

Taped to the refrigerator of the Independence Inn is a photo of a Caribbean Sunrise papaya.

Monday, May 7, 2007

New Chefs' Corner Web Site

For the food service industry, Brooks Tropicals now has a new web site specifically addressing the needs of chefs, nutritionists and other culinary professionals.

Caribbean Sunrise papayas are the focus of the new web site's kick-off. Click to see some exciting new recipes and an introduction to a new and upcoming chef, Roger Maynor of Denver, Colorado.

New Brooks Tropicals' Web Site

Brooks Tropicals debuts a totally revamped website geared for easy use by the consumer. It will be quick and easy to find information on ripening, nutrition and how to store the tropical fruits and vegetables that Brooks Tropicals grows, packs and sells.

Brooks Tropicals Preserves Ancient Mayan Ruins

Miami Herald article by Tere Figueras Negrete

When Brooks Tropicals began work on a new headquarters for its papaya-growing operation in Belize, executives for the produce distributor in Homestead never imagined the project would thrust them into unfamiliar terrain: archaeology.

Soon after the groundbreaking on the site of the new corporate offices in December, construction crews unearthed what looked like the foundation of a long-buried building -- and halted work for about two months to allow Brooks Tropicals to work with Belizean officials to excavate the site, located in the northernmost district of Corazal.

Government archaeologists soon discovered a cluster of ancient Mayan structures and the remains of three people buried in the traditional Mayan fashion, all believed to be between 1,500 and 1,800 years old.

Brooks Tropicals now plans to incorporate some of the artifacts in an exhibit within the office complex, and incorporate one of the excavated structures -- believed to be a home built for a relatively well-to-do Mayan family -- into a community park on the Brooks property.

''It's a way for the local community to see how their ancestors lived,'' said Mary Ostlund, spokeswoman for Brooks Tropicals, which employs 1,200 in Belize.

The new building will serve as headquarters for the 1,700 acres of papaya groves, which Brooks Tropicals leases from local farmers. The site will include the grove operation offices and packing facilities for Brooks Tropicals, which bills itself as the largest papaya importer in North America.

Brooks Tropicals has been marketing papayas from Belize since 1988, and began growing the fruit in 1993.

The fruit is shipped to facilities in Homestead, where the company was founded in 1928. Brooks Tropicals also grows star fruit and avocadoes in Florida, as well as importing and distributing tropical fruits and vegetables from other growers.

The human remains have been turned over to the Institute of Archaeology. The excavation revealed the remains of a man and a woman buried in a crypt. Archaeologists have uncovered four rooms and ornate pottery. Two other structures have been partially excavated, but their original purposes are still unknown.

A third crypt, holding the remains of a man, was found just outside the home.

Belizean law requires businesses to tread carefully when dealing with archaeological finds. Failing to allow archaeologists to survey sites -- and properly excavate any findings, whether deemed important or not -- can lead to hefty fines or prompt officials to shut down projects.

Some disputes have ended only after prolonged legal battles, said Jaime Awe, director of Belize's Institute of Archaeology, a branch of the National Institute of Culture and History.

''I wish more developers were as willing to work with us as Brooks,'' said Awe. 'Some look at us and say, `Oh no, here come the archaeologists.' ''

Brooks Tropicals has footed the bill for the initial excavation, roughly $10,000, said Awe.

Ostlund said the company is financially committed to the project, including the construction of the community park and excavation of other possible Mayan ruins in the area. The headquarters should be completed by February. The community park will be finished by the end of next year, said Ostlund.

The Belizean countryside is dotted with countless similar sites. The ancient Mayans numbered more than a million in 600 AD, said Awe. The current population of Belize is around 300,000.
''We have more prehistoric buildings than modern ones,'' he said.

Read the Brooks Tropicals' press release for more details (this is a 2.2MB PDF file)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Canoe Race Won by Fruta Bomba Team

The canoe race featured at the Belize Agricultural Fair on April 27th was won by Fruta Bomba. Congratulations to the three member race team.

Fruta Bomba's Booth at Belize's Agriculture and Trade Fair

Fruta Bomba put together a fantastic booth for Belize's Agriculture and Trade Fair, April 27th -29th. Photos of papayas adorned the walls of the booth, while chunks of Caribbean Red and Caribbean Sunrise papayas were available for tasting.

Decorations included real papaya trees.

A tape about who we are was shown.

Two hundred applications were taken.

The booth was always busy.

The fair was very busy.