When Hurricane Odile came ashore along the Baja Peninsula with sustained winds of up to 125 mph, Sept. 14, it left destruction in its wake.
Several U.S.-based grower-shippers who had operations in the area said they didn’t escape damage, but they’ll need at least a few weeks to determine the extent of their losses.
Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, said Odile really didn’t disrupt produce imports from Mexico because the season hadn’t started in earnest yet.
But he was hearing reports of severe damage to the Baja production region that could potentially affect volumes — particularly of tomatoes and peppers from that area — from November through June.
How much of the production is salvageable won’t be known for at least a few weeks and possibly months, Jungmeyer said.
“We’re hopeful that the farmers who were hit are able to remain viable and stay in business and supply the market,” he said.
The Sinaloa and Sonora production regions, which supply the bulk of Mexico’s winter produce, just received driving rains.
Overall, Jungmeyer said the storm is expected to benefit those two desert regions by refilling nearby reservoirs that supply irrigation water.
Despite at least some crop losses in Baja, he said he didn’t anticipate tomato shortages.
“There’s been over-production in recent years, so there will still be plenty of tomatoes available,” Jungmeyer said.
Mike Aiton, director of marketing for Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International, said he’d seen picture of damage to the company’s Baja peninsula pepper operations. But he said it was difficult to determine the losses just from the images.
“It looks to be quite severe, but until we actually get in there — a lot of the roads are washed out – It’s just very difficult for us to tell what the long-term damage will be,” Aiton said.
Prime Time had a mix of open-field production along with mesh, plastic and glass houses in the La Paz region, which was the first region hit, and the Vizcaino area, where the storm passed Sept. 16.
How the storm will affect the company’s volume for the winter season also is unknown, he said.
“Obviously, there are going to be some losses by Prime Time and others with tomatoes and peppers,” Aiton said. “But to what extent, I think it’s too early to tell.”
Tim Baloian, president of Fresno, Calif.-based Baloian Farms, had growers with production in Sinaloa. A group from the company planned to travel to the region the weekend of Sept. 20 to look at the crop and determine possible damage.
“They’ll be checking on it and getting some real reports,” he said. “It’s a little too early. We know it rained hard, but we don’t know to what extent the damage is or isn’t.”