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IN SEASON

Far-Flung Spring

March 23, 1995|RUSS PARSONS

With the Salinas Valley, which produces much of America's spring crops, sporadically under water, you can bet you're not likely to find artichokes, strawberries or iceberg lettuce on sale any time soon.

What will you see?

Look for fruits and vegetables that come from places unaffected by the rains--primarily the desert-growing areas (California's Imperial Valley, Yuma, Ariz., and Baja), but also places as widely separated as Washington State, Chile and the Caribbean.

"We've run more Chilean grape ads this year than we ever have," says Roger Schroeder, vice president of produce for Hughes Family Markets. "We still have probably a good month to six weeks in that."

Kevin Davis, senior vice president of marketing for Ralphs, says his stores probably will be looking for tropical fruits from the Caribbean such as pineapples and bananas, Washington State apples and grapefruit from Florida and Texas as well as Southern California navel oranges.

Of course, the old spring favorites will not totally disappear from the marketplace. Between what growers can salvage and what can be brought in from the desert growing areas, you'll be able to find almost anything you want. It's just a matter of how badly you want it and what kind of quality you're willing to settle for.

This is also the time of year when market managers begin to think about barbecuing. Ralphs, for example, is switching from roasts to steaks. Says Davis: "We had a choice last week between roasts and steaks. We figured people were tired of the rain and were ready to barbecue, so we went with T-bones and Porterhouse steaks."

For the same reason, poultry is frequently offered in March as a loss leader to bring customers into a store. "Retailers recognize that by featuring foods that are moving into higher demand, it somehow connects with the consumer," says William Roenigk of the National Broiler Council.

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