Las Vegas in 2010
United Fresh is just a few weeks away, and I know I’m not the only one looking forward to it.
During my conversations with the staff at United Fresh, it’s clear that those running the show have put all their effort into producing an outstanding industry event. There will be even more educational offerings than last year and more opportunities for networking.
For those that can’t attend, United Fresh is offering on-demand videos from the show at www.unitedfresh.tv. You can also follow Fresh Cut on Twitter (http://twitter.com/FreshCutMag) and our blog at www.freshcut.com for live, up-to-the-minute updates from the show floor. We’ll be posting new fresh-cut products, new equipment and summaries of the educational sessions throughout the day.
I’m also looking forward to meeting new members of the industry and reconnecting with those I see at regular meetings. If you’d like to talk, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on the show floor.
See you in Las Vegas!
Bob Grote, Grote Co.
How has the global economy affected your equipment business? Are processors backing off equipment purchases?
The global recession caused a large drop off in new equipment orders from our traditional customer base beginning in late 2008 and lasting through mid-2009. Though still cautious, customers are now returning to their buying habits. Lead time and price concession expectations have changed compared to before recession expectations.
How is your company adapting to the economic situation?
With the downturn in equipment purchases, we were encouraged to pursue opportunities in less traditional areas. This would include non-standard equipment lines and geographic areas that we may have not focused efforts previously. We have added resources to the sales area to drive more business into our manufacturing facilities. We also have concentrated efforts on field modifications, maintenance and rebuilds to existing equipment.
Do you think the economy is picking up so far in 2010?
I think the economy has stabilized, but is not growing at a rate to produce increases in demand for processing equipment. However, there is some pent up demand that will drive business in 2010 and enable equipment manufacturers to have a fairly robust sales year. 2011 could prove to be difficult as the backlog in demand is filled and little new demand is produced by the slow growing marketplace.
Where is the fresh-cut equipment industry going from here in terms of equipment?
Equipment sanitation as it relates to food safety will only continue to grow in importance in the fresh cut industry. Equipment designed to meet processing standards will have an advantage over equipment adapted from agricultural roots.
Are you more optimistic about the coming year than last year at this time?
I am very optimistic about 2010 for our business and for the food processing equipment industry as a whole. The global recession has forced many of us to stretch our capabilities which should pay dividends in the future.
The Florida Senate passed S.B. 350 on March 23, a bill that legislates increased food safety for tomato growers, packers and shippers. The bill covers all facilities that handle tomatoes for human consumption, including packinghouses and repackers. It is scheduled to go into effect July 1.
The language in the bill states that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services may establish food safety standards that protect the public from foodborne contamination in tomatoes. The guidelines must be based on previously-enacted federal statutes, the best-available science, generally-accepted industry activities and recommendations of food safety professionals.
S.B. 350 states that anyone who does not have a food permit that is involved in the production, harvest, packing or repacking of tomatoes must register with the department of agriculture. Employees also must be trained in food safety and companies should have a continuing education program in place, according to the bill.
Production also is mentioned in the Florida bill. The guidelines that will be enacted will include minimum distance requirements for animals and livestock near tomato fields, water monitoring for irrigation and tomato washing after harvest, guidelines for fertilizer applications and the health, hygiene and sanitation of employees and workers handling tomatoes. The department of agriculture will be able to establish Good Agricultural Practices and Best Management Practices for the tomato industry.
The bill also requires the cleaning and sanitation of containers, materials, equipment, vehicles and facilities used throughout the tomato production and distribution system, including ripening rooms and storage areas.
A traceability program will be required of tomato distributors. Tomato packages will have to be labeled and tracked, with a recordkeeping requirement, according to the bill.
The bill allows for the department of agriculture to inspect fields and facilities used in producing and distributing tomatoes. Audits can be conducted on farms, greenhouses, packinghouses, repacking facilities and any vehicle used to transport or hold tomatoes.
Violations of food safety guidelines established by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services can be subject to fines of up to $5,000 per instance, or be issued a written notice or warning.
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