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A Message About the 2022 NWA Convention in New York City

On behalf of the Team at the NWA, we want to provide you all with an update as we continue to prepare for the NWA’s National Convention & Annual Meeting in New York City from February 20-27, 2022.  We are very excited to enter into a renewal period that will bring us back together in-person and in a safe environment.  Our top priority at the convention will be the health and safety of our attendees and staff.
 
Let’s look at what’s happening today.  No matter where you may live in the USA, all you have to do is to turn on a radio or television and you hear the debate over masks, restrictions (or the lack of), vaccines, boosters to the vaccines, and the escalating virus rates from the Delta variant.  Unless you turn off your electronics altogether, there seemingly is no way to get passed the noise.  The problem is that banter is causing anxiety and questions from many about whether the convention will go to New York in February, with some of those questions resulting from the recent mandates set forth by the City that require masks and at least one vaccine shot to gain access to restaurants, Broadway shows and other indoor venues.
 
Let’s take a deep breath for a second, and look at the facts for a moment.  Last year we heard about NYC every single day as it unfortunately was the epicenter of the coronavirus.  Today, that designation belongs where the NWA is based in Central Florida where similar mandates are ‘not’ in place.  New York City made the tough decision to mandate practices that will hopefully keep the City from going back to where they were one year ago.  They were in a very bad place, and their plan of action is to keep from going back there again.
 
No matter what requirements may still exist seven months from now, the NWA will continue to work with the Marriott Marquis to align our group with Marriott’s protocols that follow CDC guidelines and City mandates, while the NWA will offer our attendees the use of NWA-provided masks, hand sanitizers, and follow any social distancing measures that may exist at that time.  Again, our top priority is to protect health and safety first!  That effort will allow us the opportunity to create our next family reunion. ‘You can rest assured that the NWA will work with our partners, the hotel and the City to create and offer a national convention that you have come to expect that is safe, secure, educational, and entertaining.  That has become our trademark, and we are committed to continue that vital role to kickoff the 2022 domestic season.’

 
The NWA is in constant contact with Marriott’s leadership and NYC Officials, and we are assured that our national convention will happen.  The rest, including its success, is up to us.  Stay tuned for periodic updates, and SAVE THE DATES.  We are going to host the 107th edition of the National Watermelon Association Convention & Annual Meeting at the Marriott Marquis – Times Square in February 2022.  Our time to renew, celebrate and reunite is coming shortly, and we are expecting you to be with us all.  We look forward to greeting you as our Watermelon Family has always done for over 100 years.  New York City Here We Come!

 

We are actively seeking any and all solutions to the pallet/wood shortage

All indications are that the wood (lumber) situation will continue (most likely) through this entire year, and potentially beyond.  That is a frightening indication, no doubt.  There are numerous reasons why, and most of them are out of our hands to resolve.  The major cause of the void is lumber prices that are being paid by home builders and construction.  Lumber futures have skyrocketed to prices that are 6-10 times higher than the norm of the 2015-2019 era.  The Wall Street Journal article about lumber futures provides a great deal of background.   


The NWA, in cooperation with a number of our colleagues, is shaking every tree to seek solutions.  We suggested to our F&V colleagues that a national letter be sent to the executives of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and National Grocers Association (NGA) by United Fresh Produce Association.  See United’s letter HERE.  Our friends at the Texas International Produce Association have issued their own letter, and we anticipate that other colleagues will follow suit with similar sentiments.   

The National Watermelon Association (NWA) has written a letter for your use with your watermelon buyers and shipping contacts.  Here is your chance to help us to seek solutions.  The United Fresh letter will potentially reach some retailer executives, but it will be vital to make sure that the buyers, category managers and shipping contacts are aware of this situation - - they are on the front lines of product purchasing, receiving and distribution.  Please, if you will, share the NWA letter with your contacts – every one of them!  Please do so Today!  You can access the NWA letter HERE.    

Local and state politicians have engaged to help, where they can.  Our local Congresswoman contacted the President of Publix, asking for his retail chain’s support and to encourage the National Grocers Association to help solve the problem.  She also talked with the President of Pallet One to hopefully help.  Nikki Fried, Florida’s AG Commissioner, is now getting involved.  As the watermelon season moves northward, we anticipate that more retailers, more politicians and others will engage, and that’s good.  The more trees that we can shake, maybe some solutions will be the result.

A good example of how a retailer can help is the conversation I had on Wednesday with the gentleman at Publix Super Markets that is responsible for the pallets in their distribution centers and stores.  They became aware of this issue recently and began a company-wide effort to communicate the need to return all pallets, hold weekly calls with the pallet companies, and have them pick them up for return them to the pools.  In some cases, he indicated that Publix has used their own trucks and drivers to return pallets to the pooling systems.  This response is extraordinary, mind you, and it is very welcome.  If we could get other retailers to do half of that, we would be headed in the right direction. 

Retailers and wholesalers can help to diminish the severity of this issue by releasing pallets back into the pooling systems as soon as they are emptied (rather than holding them or sending them internally to packaged goods suppliers).  Perishable products like F&V crops should take precedence - - crops cannot wait!  And, the retailers that have specific pallet requirements can be lenient by providing ‘waivers’ during this crisis.  In fact, one of my counterparts has arranged for the CEOs of both United Fresh and PMA to contact one major club store operator to apprise them of this issue and suggest a waiver of their pallet requirement at least until November 1st.  We’ll see what happens soon.     

Let’s be frank about this: this situation is, in fact, a crisis.  The magnitude of the issue is potentially different from region to region, but it is coming to your area if it has not already, so please get ready ….. This is not an issue to be unprepared for.

Across the years we’ve seen you surf through labor issues, audits, raids, food safety outbreaks, cost variations, increased competition, trade pressures, trucking issues, and so many more ….. and every time you were resilient and got through it.  But this issue …. this crisis …. is something that is not easily solvable.  We don’t own a timber forest or a sawmill to manufacture pallets for you, nor can we go backward to the days of trailers lined with beds of hay for direct-store delivery, or the age of railcars.  The fact is we need pallets with bins filled with fresh watermelons on trucks to get watermelons to market - - there are no if’s, and’s or but’s about it.

Please join us, get yourself involved, and seek solutions everywhere and anywhere.  Send the NWA letter to your buyers and shipping contacts.  The United Fresh letter will reach the executives, but let’s make sure that everyone in the supply chain knows what the problem is, and get them to help find solutions.  We cannot say with any certainty what the solutions are, or when we will find them, but if we all try together, maybe we’ll be blessed and get through this.  
 
The power of this association (the NWA) is that we try - - we try really hard - - to solve problems.  That’s what we do - - and that’s why we are here.  We will keep you informed every step of the way – we promise that to you.  In a case so severe and threatening like this, we need your help too - - we cannot do this alone.  Let’s get the word out, do our best, pray too, and maybe, just maybe we’ll get through this season okay.  There are no promises to be made; no commitments to be reviewed; it’s just us doing our best, and being what we are – a caring family – and a great association.  We’re in with both feet and up to it as far as we can be.  Can we count on each and every one of you too?  I think we can.  Let’s do this Together! 
 


Read More

United’s letter

NWA Letter

 

Pallet Shortage Will Continue, Maybe Into June


As we reported two weeks ago, the country is experiencing a historic shortage of pallets that is causing the cancellation of some deliveries to growers & shippers.  There is much confusion and angst surrounding this very significant issue, with cancellations, panic and anger all mixed together.  It is possibly the most significant (and threatening) issue that we have ever seen.   

CHEP indicated to us that this issue is ‘not’ just one industry (i.e. watermelon or any other F&V crop), but rather spread across all industries and the entire country.  They have completely cut off their winter storage program and are shutting down their supply to companies that are either in arrears with their accounts and/or are normally ‘shoppers’ of pallets.  It was confirmed to me yesterday that they are ‘allocating’ pallets to their customers based on the available inventory in each area and are communicating regularly with them.  Additionally, they are accepting no new customers during this troubling period. 

They have talked with retailers and alerted them to the situation, and asked for all used pallets to be released back into the supply chain.  No industry or grower or shipper is immune to this.  It is effecting everyone in the pallet-using business. Although the indication is that this situation could extend into June, more of the country is reopening from the shutdown period, which should loosen up the pallet situation from hoarder-buying and other COVID-19 purchasing effects.  Let us hope (and pray) that it loosens up much earlier than that prediction.         

We reached out to our friends at 48forty, the largest white-board provider in the USA, and confirmed  the same difficult situation there.  No new customers can be accepted, and they are doing their best to supply their customers as best they can.  They too are short and may not be in a position to lend a helping hand.  The effects of COVID-19 on so many facets of our daily lives is truly making a huge & loud statement and challenging our efforts and your needs. CHEP indicated that you may be able to help them by ‘verifying’ the accuracy of your orders for this season, especially for the next few months.  We are not sure how much that will help, but anything might at this point.   

It has been reported that there are sheds with truckloads of pallets in states that will not be in production for 2-4 months.  And yes, that is true.  We were told that those pallets are part of the winter storage program (which has been cut off due to this situation).  Those pallets are paid for and will remain in the ‘custody’ of the grower/shipper that stores them (until they are used).  CHEP ‘cannot’ relocate or reallocate those pallets.  FYI.   They (CHEP) released a communication to their customers (yesterday) which touches on the higher points of the issue.  You can read it HERE, if you wish         

Where this very difficult situation will lead us is very unpredictable.  We will keep our regular contacts with CHEP, 48forty and any others (that will talk with us), while we keep you alerted of any solutions that may arise.  We very much look forward to the coming day when the supply loosens up, and we can return to some type of order in the business.  We’re heavily engaged and trying to help any way that we can.  Stay tuned, and stay strong. 

 

SAVE THE DATES:  The NWA 2022 Convention is a ‘GO’ in NYC!!! 


You may read or hear the media reports about business, landlords and other catchy news reports about New York City, but be rest assured ….. the National Watermelon Association (NWA) is planning to hold the next national convention in the heart of Times Square – New York City from February 21-27, 2022! 


Our hosts (the Marriott Marquis) are excited to greet you to their beautiful facility in the greatest city in the world – New York. The NWA has been and remains in constant contact with the Marriott Marquis (and NYC officials), and remains confident that nationals will happen as scheduled. 


You can expect a pent-up atmosphere (and excitement) as a result of this year’s convention cancellation. We will bring you some new tidbits and announcements along the way.  Save the Dates, and stay tuned for new information in a few months.  
 

 

In Loving Memory of Wanda Letson



It is with heavy hearts and much sadness we say goodbye to such a great friend of ours, Wanda Letson. Wanda was a devoted mother of 2, grandmother of 3 and great-grandmother of 2, who dearly loved her family.
 
Wanda was the Secretary, Treasurer and Queen Coordinator for the Texas Watermelon Association, which she started her journey in 1986 and retired in 2012. She was straightforward and witty, never beat around the bush, one of a kind, tough, what you see is what you get, kind of lady. Wanda was dedicated to the watermelon industry and her friends. She was loved by everybody.  

One of Wanda’s funny sayings was She always referred to “Central time as Texas Time”. There are so many laughs and so many memories of our friend. We are sure that so many of you have your own funny stories and memories of Wanda.
We need to never forget these memories of her. Wanda will be truly missed by so many. We look forward to the day we meet again our dear friend.

God Speed.
XOXOXO

“Those we love don’t go away,
They walk beside us every day,
Unseen, unheard, but always near,
Still loved, still missed and very dear.

-Anonymous-

 
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