America Trades returns March 12-13

The America Trades Produce conference is set for March 12-13 at the Tubac Golf Resort and Spa in Tubac, Ariz.

Topics include food safety, with speakers such as Food and Drug Administration deputy commissioner Mike Taylor and Mexico counterparts. There will be a tour of the Mariposa Port, and The Packer is scheduled to present its Importer of the Year award.

Christopher Wilson, associate at the Woodrow Wilson Institute’s Mexico Institute, is the keynote speaker.

Registration is at

Crown Jewels boosts melons

Fresno, Calif.-based Crown Jewels Produce is planning substantial additions to its melon volumes out of Mexico.

“We’re probably going to be up 35% or 40% when you count honeydews and seedless watermelons,” said Atomic Torosian, managing partner.

“And we’ll have a small presence in the Mexican cantaloupe deal.”

Crown Jewels expected to start those items in early April.

Elsewhere in the lineup, the shipper planned to move Mexican grapes as early as the first week of May.

“Perlette grapes look better than last year at this time and are growing rapidly with the warm weather,” Torosian said.

Those will ship under the Crown Jewels label from a ranch in Pesqueria, Sonora, north of Hermosillo. Temperatures in Hermosillo already approached 100 degrees on some February days.

“Most early grapes for us are grown in and around Hermosillo,” he said.

“The late deal is coming out of Caborca a little farther north. There have been some new plantings down in Guaymas on some of the earliest varieties. This will be our first year grapes will go in the ground in Guaymas. In another two years we’ll be having grapes out of that district, which are a bit earlier.”

Del Campo plans mini pepper pack

Business updates: West Mexico Spring ProduceDel Campo Supreme has a 1-pound bag of orange, yellow and red sweet mini peppers in the works.

“We started growing a few hectares of it,” Jim Munguia, sales manager for the Nogales, Ariz.-based shipper, said Feb. 4.

“We’re just in the process of introducing it to chains, but nothing is on the shelves yet. We’re showing it to the corporate end of retail, looking for feedback and getting our packaging ready to go.”

Del Campo Supreme lately has been promoting the packaging on another product, its T’mates cocktail tomatoes introduced at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in October.

“The cocktail tomato package is a cardboard box that’s green and ecology friendly,” Munguia said.

“It’s a totally different packaging system with a fresh look. A window displays the tomatoes inside. When you open it they’re side by side, top to bottom.”

“Comments have been positive,” he said.

L&M expands into round tomatoes

L&M Cos. Inc., Raleigh, N.C., plans to add round tomatoes to its Nogales, Ariz., lineup.

“By the end of the season we might get a shot of round tomatoes, in March,” Johnny McDaniel, sales and operations director, said Feb. 5.

“But we’re not sure yet. It may be for next season.”

In Texas, L&M is increasing roma, bell pepper and cucumber volumes crossing at McAllen with production from Tamaulipas, Mexico. The same is true for watermelons sourced out of Campeche, Mexico, McDaniel said.

McAllen operations are overseen from Nogales. Previously that was done from L&M headquarters in Raleigh.

Prime Time ramps up hard squash

Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International is in its first full season of Mexican hard squash, with kabocha, acorn, butternut and spaghetti loading at Nogales, Ariz., said Mike Aiton, director of marketing.

“Just this week we started to cross in good supply,” he said Feb. 5.

“There aren’t many items in west Mexico where the market prices are very good,” Aiton said.

“Last year on hard squash there were a lot of sales in the $20s due to some weather, but now it’s more seasonably correct in the $8-12 range.”

Wholesum adds Mexico acreage

Organic grower-shipper Wholesum Family Farms, Nogales, Ariz., plans to add 2 hectares to an existing 14-hectare greenhouse site near Imuris in Sonora, Mexico.

“We broke ground in January and expect it to be ready by July,” said Ricardo Crisantes, general manager.

“We’re thinking of planting there in the first days of August and picking organic tomatoes on the vine in late fall,” he said.

Wholesum Family Farms, which has been in a construction phase in recent years, plans its next expansion for 2015 at its Arizona site.

“The scope is still being studied,” Crisantes said.