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Catania Worldwide primed for a successful fig season

By
Keith Loria

Paul Catania’s experience with California figs dates back decades to when he noticed that the fruit always caught people’s eyes at produce shows. Then he started distributing figs in Toronto.

“It was a great market for fresh figs,” Catania said. “So, I started that out in California 30 years ago.”

His efforts grew to the point that he also dealt in Mexican figs to fill the gap in the California season, which runs from June through early November.

That allows him to provide figs all year round, and it has made his company, Catania Worldwide — which has offices in Mississauga, ON, McAllen, TX, Vineland, NJ, and Mexico, as well as its Stellar Distributing operation out of Madera, CA — a leader in California figs.

“I grow figs in Mexico; I grow figs in California,” Catania said. “It allows us to stay on top of the deal and it really puts us in a position to have a lot of influence on the deal.”

He explained that there are two fig crops in California each year, with the first starting around June 10 and running for about three weeks. Then there is a two-week gap before the second crop starts and runs into November, depending on weather.

The industry has experienced a lot of trials and tribulations pertaining to California figs this year, with water being the biggest issue.

“Water has and will continue to influence and restrict when commodities are harvested and out of where,” Catania said, expanding on that by noting that he’s growing figs in areas of California that have good water. “But there are areas that do not have good water, meaning the wells are so deep that they don’t work, or they don’t provide, and then you can’t use county water because it’s just too expensive to harvest.”

As a result, he said, Catania Worldwide probably has about 90 percent of this season’s California figs.

“That’s obviously a pretty good position to have,” he said. “The second crop will be a little bit different: there’ll be more people in the field.”

It’s rare for a company to have that much of a commodity, especially one that sparks as much interest as figs.

“We’re anticipating a really great first crop, and the second crop should be very, very good as well,” Catania said. “And then as far as Mexico goes, we tried to maintain some orderly marketing in Mexico. But there’s been a lot of people who are just sending fruit to the border, and that creates a not-so-orderly marketing situation.”

Catania Worldwide has seen success in the fig market for many reasons, including the fact that while figs are a fruit that captures people’s interests, it’s not so mainstream that everyone is involved with it.

“I don’t have 800 competitors out there,” Catania said. “People who are in the fig deal are very specific, and that helps a lot.”

Another big advantage for Catania Worldwide is that it grows its own products. He noted that the company will grow about 600,000 pounds of fruit for the first crop, 200,000 of which will go to Canada. He added that company is looking to get more involved with offshore fruit, including from Peru and Greece, and is also experimenting with new varieties, both black and green, in California.

“We’re able to grow our own harvest, pack and ship, our own product,” Catania said. “The vertical integration is really the key for this.”

And that helps make Catania Worldwide a key player in figs.

Keith Loria

Keith Loria

About Keith Loria  |  email

A graduate of the University of Miami, Keith Loria is a D.C.-based award-winning journalist who has been writing for major publications for close to 20 years on topics as diverse as real estate, food and sports. He started his career with the Associated Press and has held high editorial positions at magazines aimed at healthcare, sports and technology. When not busy writing, he can be found enjoying time with his wife, Patricia, and two daughters, Jordan and Cassidy.

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