Greenhouse growers enter U.S.-Mexico tomato dispute - The Packer

Greenhouse growers enter U.S.-Mexico tomato dispute

10/10/2012 12:52:00 PM
Tom Karst

(UPDATED COVERAGE, Oct. 12) Another front has been opened in the conflict between U.S. and Mexican tomato producers.

In the midst of uncertainty over the fate of the suspension agreement between Mexican growers and the U.S., there is a new over a proposal to more tightly define what constitutes greenhouse grown produce and create differentiation compared with tomatoes grown in shade houses or other protected agriculture environments in Mexico.

Imports of greenhouse tomatoes from Mexico have taken a bigger share of rising tomato imports, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. About one-quarter of U.S. imports of 949,000 metric tons of Mexican tomatoes were labeled greenhouse grown in 2007, but the percentage termed greenhouse tomatoes rose to 39% of 1.32 million metric tons of Mexican tomato imports by 2011, according to USDA trade statistics.

Aiming to eliminate misbranding greenhouse grown tomatoes and increase prices, a coalition that includes California tomato marketers is seeking a change in the state’s definition of a greenhouse tomato. The move could lead to a harmonized national definition that could eventually put in place new marketing order demands on Mexican tomatoes previously labeled as greenhouse grown.

Representatives of Certified Greenhouse Farmers, Ventura, Calif., took their case to the California Department of Food and Agriculture Oct. 9. They testified in favor of a proposed amendment to clarify existing codes and align with efforts at the federal level in the U.S. and Canada to establish a definition for hydroponic greenhouse produce.

The group advocated for this definition for the California code, according to the release:

“Tomatoes labeled with the term ‘greenhouse grown’ shall be considered mislabeled unless tomatoes are grown in a fully enclosed permanent aluminum or fixed-steel structure clad in glass or impermeable plastic using automated irrigation and climate control, including heating and ventilation capabilities, in an artificial medium that substitutes for soil using hydroponic methods.”

The previous definition, written in 2004, said “Tomatoes labeled with the term “greenhouse grown” shall be considered mislabeled unless tomatoes are grown in a fixed steel structure using irrigation and climate control, in an artificial medium that substitutes for soil.”

One industry leader who testified at the hearing said the definition should help lead to a harmonized U.S. definition.


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NGatzionis    
Nogales, Arizona  |  October, 10, 2012 at 06:03 PM

'Greenhouse' and 'protected agriculture' should be defined differently. There is no question that a shade-house is quite different than a greenhouse when it comes to growing environments and separation of climate. To incorporate hydroponics into the details of the definition of a greenhouse, however, is incorrect. Hydroponic-grown and greenhouse-grown are two different systems and should be recognized separately. Greenhouse-grown and hydroponic-grown should not be considered to be dependent on each other.

Matt    
AZ  |  October, 11, 2012 at 08:56 AM

Let's look at this for what it really is. The group led by Mr. Beckman is promoting an anti- competitive measure because they are stuck with over-priced infrastructure. If they truly cared about greenhouse-grown meaning something they would be advocating for a voluntary quality standard that PROVES the term means something and DESERVES a premium in the marketplace. The consumer doesn't give a damn the medium in which the product was grown or if the structure has climate controls. The consumer votes with their wallet and wants a quality product. Mis-branding shouldn't even be a part of this discussion as the brand "greenhouse-grown" truly says nothing about the end product. Last I checked you can still grow complete crap in a greenhouse...

JHG    
MX  |  October, 11, 2012 at 04:54 PM

We are going to confuse the costumer even more now. Hydroponics is only needed when your soil is lacking key nutritients, there is way too many scientific studies that prove that direct soil planting is better, BUT if your soil is poor or tired, you NEED to go hydroponic. How many SKU's do we want on the tomato category in the future ?? Like we don't have enough already ..... Carefull what you wish for ..

frank    
ohio  |  October, 12, 2012 at 08:30 AM

It's sad that people need the government to "fix" things. There should be some definition of what constitutes greenhouse grown; however, how the product tastes and costs is all that matters to the consumer. You can also grow crap outside, but you still shouldn't sell it as greenhouse grown. It's false representation to attempt to gain increased pricing without increased infrastructure costs. It's called fraud.

Matt    
AZ  |  October, 12, 2012 at 09:10 AM

Frank, the tightening of these rules has nothing to do with crap grown outside being marketed as greenhouse-grown. This is a small group of California growers trying to make the definition of greenhouse even stricter than it already is within the state of California. While they have delusions of grandeur, this only applies to the state of California Ag Department's own definition. I would also like to add that Mr. Beckman jumped on the coattails of the Florida tomato group also trying to push anti-competitive measures because they simply don't know how to run their businesses efficiently... Rather than improve they'd rather make it someone else's problem

Dice or slice    
October, 15, 2012 at 05:44 PM

There is already much industry/consumer confusion regarding tomatoes from the protected Ag world of Mexico. Imports, most which are now grown under shade, plastic, or some form of protected ag format via Mexico, are marketed either as Greenhouse grown or vine ripe fruit based which sub commodity will bring a better return to the farm. Tomatoes picked from the same area may be marketed as two diffrent products, Case in point 15 lb beefsteak and 20 lb 2 layer vine ripes. Which is it, GH, protected, VR, or all of the above? Please don't get me wrong, there are plenty of good quality tomato growers/importers from Mexico, let's just clear up the confusion, and have a consistent message to the trade.

klk    
March, 09, 2013 at 04:19 PM

egg zack lee

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