Grower-shippers in Mexico’s protected-agriculture deal say their products are cleaner and safer, but they also say they generally don’t market the product as such.

“It’s not necessarily marketed that way by the grower-shippers,” said Gregg Biada, vice president of Global Fresh Import & Export, which is based in Bonita Springs, Fla., and is a subsidiary of Springfield, Ill.-based Tom Lange Co.

“It’s something that we, in our presentation to our customers, make a point of it, because there are a lot less pesticides used in the greenhouse vs. the field, because it’s a much more controlled environment.”

He noted the product is not necessarily pesticide-free, but it’s a very minimal use of pesticide, which falls in line with sustainability practices.

“In many cases, instead of pesticides, we’ll identify the bugs in the greenhouse and basically release predator bugs to control those types of bugs instead of using pesticides,” Biada said.

The built-in advantages that a protected environment provide certainly don’t hurt in marketing the product, said Alberto Maldonado, general manager of Nogales, Ariz.-based Apache Produce.

“You get better yields, and it’s easier to pick. It’s better for labor, too,” he said.

“(With regard to protected ag vs. field-grown ag,) I think to promote one thing to the detriment of something else is a big mistake, and not just in peppers but whether you’re talking about conventional or organic and anything else,” said Mike Aiton, marketing director for Prime Time International, Coachella, Calif.

“I think we need to talk about all the positive parts of fresh produce and not try to differentiate within categories benefits one practice might have over another.”

Both protected and open-field modes fill valuable roles, Aiton said.

“I think the markets kind of mimic each other,” he said.

“It’s still a red pepper, and you’ll see at times, there’s a huge disparity. I think it depends on the timing and every retailer and every wholesaler have a good idea of what works for them and what sells for them. I think the markets react independently of each other, according to that.

“We also have people that will switch back and forth, depending on what the best value is, but I think the markets kind of track each other.”

Marketing safety of product grown in protected environments is not necessary, said Jim Cathey. general manager of Del Campo Supreme Inc., Nogales.

“I think it’s a given that being inside the greenhouses, most buyers understand, being in a greenhouses, then you’re talking about using either no pesticides or certainly much less than you would have,” he said.