Valley Fig Growers Have Rich History

Valley Fig Growers Foresees Bright Future

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

As the 2016 fig crop continues to ripen in Madera County orchards, the fig industry is finding a good balance between supply and demand. Gary Jue, president of Fresno-based Valley Fig Growers, said the association is last fig growers cooperative in the world. “Our growers, who are mainly in Madera County, produce only dried figs,”said Jue. “We do not handle any fresh figs.”

“Formed in 1959 by a group of growers,” explained Jue, “Valley Fig grower-members are our owners, and individuals like myself work at the pleasure of the board of directors and our owners. We are a very diversified dried fig company. We probably produce the largest quantity of dried fig products offered by any processor/packer.”

“Our goal is to provide innovative products to our customers,” Jue explained, “our industrial customers—food manufacturers, in particularas a way to enable them to use our products in their products. We want to be as user-friendly as we can, so we listen to consumer needs to get our product in their hands and make it easy for them to use. The more we can do that, the more successful we’ll be at with providing figs to the consumer,” he said.

Gary Jue
Gary Jue, president of Valley Fig Growers.

Fig popularity has grown over the last five to seven years, Jue said, including fresh figs in season. “That’s been very popular especially at the high-end restaurants,” noted Jue. “We’re starting to see more and more dried fig products used in entrees in high-end restaurants, and even in mid-sized-priced restaurants.”

“If you go to the renowned coffee supplier that you see in every port and city in the U.S. and abroad,” Jue said, “you’ll see our figs in a product they provide. It is great to see products like that on the shelf! Confectioners are also on the wagon, as we’re starting to see more confectionery products now made with dried figs that we had not seen in the past.”

Jue mentioned during the holiday season last year, one of the Valley Fig accounts provided a whole chocolate covered fig product that was great. “Now,” he said, “we’re looking to determine if this is going to be a seasonal item or a year-round item. That large wholesale supplier really did a great job of introducing this confectionery fig into the mainstream public marketplace. It’s not a high-end specialty item, but something that anybody can go to the retail shop everyday to buy and enjoy. That has been a great, great upshot,” Jue affirmed.

This is all good news for the fig industry because Americans tend not to be big fig consumers as the fig is not indigenous to the United States. More typically, figs are enjoyed with greater consumption throughout the Mediterranean region as they have been produced there since pre-biblical times. During Roman times, figs were given as prizes. “Through carbon dating studies,” Jue elaborated, “we have determined figs were the first cultivated food known to humankind.”

“Because the crop has been around for so long, figs are very well known in Europe. Europeans grow up eating figs, but Americans are starting to develop a palate for dried figs and fresh figs as well,” said Jue. “And for us in the fig industry, it’s great to see that occurring.”

Bayer CropScience Horticulture Symposium Builds Relationships

Bayer CropScience Horticulture Symposium Builds Global Relationships for Collaborative Problem-Solving

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

 

Nearly 200 professionals in the horticultural industry from across the food chain and the value chain, and from Europe and North, Central and South America, gathered this week at the Bayer CropScience Horticulture Symposium in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Attendees were treated to an inspirational mix of lectures, panel discussions, as well as an interactive poster session, all incorporating forward-thinking sustainable practices into contemporary agriculture. Among the crops discussed were tomatoes, citrus, grapes, potatoes, bananas.

Rob Schrick, strategic management lead, Bayer CropScience Horticulture, based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, said the event was the company’s second in a series of horticulture symposiums focused on international collaboration and problem-solving. “This is about bringing the best and brightest from across our industry,” said Schrick, “from influencers and universities to industry members like ourselves and the media. It’s about getting these creative minds together and discussing solutions. The solutions may not come from the symposium itself, but the connections that are made—you don’t know what will yield from those relationships.”

Jim Chambers, director of marketing, Bayer CropScience Food Production, said the Horticulture Symposium was all about sharing information on best management practices. “Bayer is a leader in the crop protection business within the horticultural space around the world, and this is a real opportunity to bring all of us within horticulture across the food chain and the value chain to talk, from the grower, to the processor, and to the consumer. It is a wonderful opportunity to work together to solve some very difficult challenges.”

“And, vivid to all attendees, was that members of the fruit and vegetable industry throughout the Americas have similar challenges to overcome,” noted Chambers. “It was very interesting; the issues that we talk and hear about in the specialty crop states such as California, Florida and Texas, are very much the same issues that people, for example in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, or Central America, are facing. These issues do not go across just states or counties; they reach across the globe in solving these problems,” Chambers said.

Among the speakers were growers, commodity specialists from the industry and academia, and experts on sustainability practices, professionals on Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs), Bayer CropScience specialists and major agricultural association leaders such as Tom Nassif, ceo, Western Growers Association (WGA) and Dana Merrill, president, Mesa Vineyard Management Inc.

Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the Life Science fields of health care and agriculture. Bayer CropScience, the subgroup of Bayer AG responsible for the agricultural business, is one of the world’s leading innovative crop science companies in the areas of seeds, crop protection and non-agricultural pest control. The company offers an outstanding range of products including high value seeds, innovative crop protection solutions based on chemical and biological modes of action as well as an extensive service backup for modern, sustainable agriculture. 

(Photo features Rob Schrick, Bayer CropScience – Horticulture strategic management lead)

CALIFORNIA SUSTAINING GLOBAL ALMOND DEMAND

Domestic Consumption Greatest Source of Increased Almond Demand

 

Mark Jansen, President and CEO Blue Diamond Growers, issued a press release TODAY reporting that for the second consecutive year, domestic consumption of California Almonds is driving demand. U.S. shipments have grown 11% over a year ago, and in December they posted a 20% gain.  The U.S. is the most consistent, largest and greatest source of growth for California almonds.

Total global shipments for the month were flat to last year. Year to date, shipments exceed prior year by 6%.  We are now projecting a 2 billion pound crop, which should give the industry just enough almonds to sustain the current growth rate of 6%.

Prices are 25% higher than last year, so we are increasingly seeing which markets will pay premium prices for almonds. Sales weakness continued in two of the largest export markets, China and India. The total European region sits at 21% year to date over last year.  Spain had a particularly strong month receiving nearly 60% more volume than last year.  The Middle East is recovering, replacing last year’s losses with shipments up 28% over prior year for the month and climbing 39% year to date.
With demand for California Almonds firmly in place, prices are expected to remain solid as we progress into the bloom.

Mark Jansen currently serves on the Executive Council for the California Chamber of Commerce, is on the Executive Council for the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, is Director, International Nut and Dried Fruit Council, and is on the Board of Trustees for the Graduate Institute of Cooperative Learning.