Crown Jewels, Agrocir partner to extend season

11/16/2012 03:01:00 PM
Mike Hornick

Crown Jewels Produce has extended its Mexico supply of honeydew melons and green bell peppers under a new partnership with Sonora grower Agrocir.

Agrocir had dropped the two crops from its lineup about a decade ago.

“When we approached them, they opted to diversify their growing strategy and develop other crops,” said Luis Corella, director of Mexican produce for Fresno, Calif.-based Crown Jewels Produce. “They opted for the green bell peppers and honeydews.”

The company also plans to receive Italian, yellow and gray squash from Agrocir, which has been owned by the Iberri family for three generations.

Agrocir was expected to produce about 50 hectares of honeydews and up to 40 hectares of green bell peppers for Crown Jewels. Honeydew production started around Oct. 24, and the peppers the first week of November. The melon deal in Sonora runs about six weeks; bells should go until early 2013.

“They’re adding to our program at times when other growers have not yet started,” Corella said. “This bell pepper deal precedes Culiacan down south. It gives us about a two-week head start on people who have product just in Culiacan.”

Agrocir has plans of its own, including moving into protected agriculture for the first time.

“Their goal is to build 100 hectares of shade houses in the next four years,” Corella said. “And they’re working on developing a packing facility in Guaymas.”

Agrocir has a history of growing squash and kabocha in Guaymas. The 100 hectares are a combination of existing land and new acquisitions. The company starts its fall deal in Hermosillo and La Costa, then grows in Guaymas during winter before heading back.

Crown Jewels has added hard squash and hot peppers to its Mexico winter offerings. It’s bumped up volume on its other commodities anywhere from 30% to 60%, Corella said, depending on the item.

Where some companies specialize, this one goes for broad coverage of commodities, and Mexico is no exception.

“We’re developing new customers and growing with existing customers,” he said. “Crown Jewels used to have product from November through April. Now we have a growing cycle that starts Oct. 1 and goes all the way through May 31 on vegetables.”

Crown Jewels was allotted more space this year at the Agri-Packing cooler in Nogales, Ariz., to accommodate a rising package count.

“We have the ability to do a one-stop shop and consolidate loads at our facility,” Corella said. “We have the staple items and can go out and source any additional items that may be required.”



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