Viva Fresh Expo headed to Houston
In early November, the Texas International Produce Association opened up booth registrations as it continued its quest to curate a great experience for its Viva Fresh Expo, which will be held April 11-13 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Houston.
TIPA President/CEO Dante Galeazzi recently told The Produce News that Houston is the perfect venue after having held the show in some of Texas’ other top towns including Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. “Why wouldn’t you want to come to Houston,” he rhetorically asks on TIPA’s Viva Fresh preview video.
The floor space will be a bit smaller than in the past several years, which requires the Expo Committee to handpick the exhibitors to make sure the event meets the needs of its membership and other attendees. Galeazzi said Viva Fresh’s workshops and events will have some tried and true activities as well as new offerings to excite the convention-goers. “We are not yet ready to reveal what’s new for 2024 but we will after the 1st of the year,” he promised.
While Viva Fresh is an important event that does occupy a portion of TIPA’s workload all-year long, Galeazzi said the association has been busy tackling other challenges and opportunities. He reported that Texas was kicking off its fall/winter season with citrus already being picked and other crops heading toward their harvesting windows.
“Both our citrus and vegetable producers are getting under way but the veg crops are coming on a little bit later this year,” he said, noting that a lack of rain throughout summer delayed the planting schedules. “From May through October, we had 100-degree days just about every week,” he said.
In fact, in 2023 Texas experienced 55 days in which the temperature soared past 100-degrees. Only two other years in the state’s history surpassed that number.
“But after all these challenges, we are starting to see weather conditions improve,” he said on Nov. 6. “We are getting back into a better weather and we are hoping for a good season for all of our crops.”
Galeazzi did say that the long, hot summer has taken a bit of a toll on citrus yields. “Our grapefruit and oranges are going to eat like candy but yields are down,” he said.
TIPA has several other important projects it is working on including a more than doubling of its student recruitment and career development effort, which it calls its EDGE (Encouraging Discovery and Growth in Education) program. “We’ve added five additional Texas universities to the program this year,” he said.
Galeazzi said the program involves contacting universities throughout Texas and let them know that there are job opportunities in fresh produce available for students in all disciplines. “We want supply chain students, marketing, IT and engineering,” he said. “This is an open invitation for students to come into the fresh produce industry. At last year’s show we had 30 students attend from four universities.”
In general, Galeazzi said the state of the economy is improving in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley as the area continues it rebounds from the COVID-19 years. “We are seeing a lot of growth in South Texas,” he said. “We are still behind schedule but we are catching up. We are seeing new warehouse getting built and some of the roadway expansion projects are back on track.”
He said many of these projects have decided to help move truck traffic across the border and through the area in a more efficient manner. He added that the political issues that surfaced last year that caused disruption with the truck traffic hauling goods from Mexico to the U.S. market appear to be in the rearview mirror. “Operation Lone Star, which the governor has the power to order truck inspections, is still in place but we are seeing fewer disruptions,” he said. “Some of the bridges have reported one- or two-day closures but nothing like the 10-day closure we saw last year, which really created havoc.”