The amount of Mexican-grown produce that Texas shippers handle continues to increase, said John McClung, president of the Mission-based Texas International Produce Association. But business from Texas as well remains strong.
Historically, Texas has been known for its domestic production, but the amount of product imported from Mexico has been on the rise for the past 20 years, McClung said.
Today, up to 65% of the product moved by Texas shippers comes from Mexico, while about 35% still is grown in Texas, he said.
Texas is the No. 3 shipper, behind California and Florida, he said.
“We have surpassed Arizona as the biggest state importer,” McClung said. But, he adds, “there is plenty of business for everybody.”
Business should pick up even more when the 143-mile Durango-Mazatlan highway opens. Most Texas shippers expect that to happen by the end of the year.
The highway, characterized by the mammoth Baluarte Bridge outside of Durango, should reduce transportation time for product coming from west Mexico and reduce freight rates.
“Business is booming for this area,” said Carlos Zambito, general manager of the McAllen Produce Terminal Market.
Almost all of the cold storage space is in use, he said.
“It is easy to see that McAllen is well on its way to becoming the new distribution point for the region,” said Greg Smith, marketing communications manager for Glennville, Ga.-based Bland Farms LLC, which operates Bland Distribution Services in Donna, Texas.
“With the freeway opening up that extends down through Mexico, product can arrive much cheaper through McAllen than it can if it were to arrive through Nogales,” he said.
“In addition, McAllen’s location is much closer to the Eastern Seaboard, which also makes it very attractive for any company bringing product in from Mexico.”
Ground should break in the middle of 2013 for a new market in San Antonio that will have 180 warehouses, Zambito said.
The San Antonio facility likely will serve customers for a radius of up to 200 miles.
Texas shippers say quality generally is good on domestic and imported products this season.
DeBruyn Produce, Zeeland, Mich., brings in Peruvian onions from Florida during the winter and grows onions in Texas during the spring, said Margret DeBruyn, president and chief executive officer.
Acreage is down in Texas because of a water shortage, she said.
High saline content in the soil presented challenges because of a lack of water last year, and those challenges should persist this year because the water shortfall is even greater, she said.