Good quality on tap from Texas Mexico

11/16/2012 11:34:00 AM
Tom Burfield

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.

Frontera Produce Ltd., Edinburg, Texas, already has started its Texas-grown cilantro, and general manager Lisa Hilton Waters expected to start cabbage in mid- to late November.

Growing conditions have been typical, she said, and quality on the cilantro is good.

The company also was shipping good-quality pineapples and peppers, she said, adding that peppers have been lighter this year because of tight water supplies.

Pharr-based Vision Produce Partners of Texas was shipping broccoli and greenhouse-grown roma tomatoes from Mexico, said Ben Brittain, executive vice president and managing partner.

Growing conditions were good, but rain in Mexico’s lime country affected that fruit. Brittain hoped that quality on the limes will improve as the season progresses.

Texas-grown organic produce is also under way.

Mission-based South Tex Organics LC was slated to start its organic citrus deal in mid-November, said Garrett Edwards, office manager and sales manager.

Growing conditions have been good, and there was plenty of moisture from December through March to help the fruit set, he said.

Rainfall over the past few months has been minimal, but the company has turned to flood irrigation.

Some trees in the area experienced hail damage last winter, but damage was minimal for South Tex Organics, Edwards said.

The crop looks clean, he said in early November, but a little on the small side.

The company should have grapefruit until early April, early oranges through January and valencias from February through early April.

Meyer lemons should be available through mid-January and grapefruit from November to early April.

“There is very high demand for organic Texas citrus,” Edwards said.

San Antonio-based State St. Produce is shipping a variety of products from Mexico, said vice president Nick Hurter.

“We’re going hot and heavy with broccoli, celery, bell peppers and carrots,” he said in early November.

The company sources from several locations in Mexico, where weather has been “pretty much ideal,” he said in early November.

The company also partners with another firm for a small spring deal out of Texas that includes carrots, napa cabbage and bok choy.



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