Growers are adding greenhouse acreage, despite February’s low prices resulting from excess supplies on the market.
On March 5, greenhouse one-layer flats of vine-ripes 22-32s crossings from Mexico through Nogales, Ariz., received $4.95-7. On March 1, 2011, one-layer flats of vine-ripe greenhouse tomatoes 22-32s crossings from Mexico through Nogales received $16.95.
It wasn’t just tomatoes that were priced lower.
On March 5, 22-pound cartons of greenhouse-grown persian cucumbers small and small-medium crossing from Mexico through Nogales, Ariz., received $10.95-12.95, and cartons of film-wrapped long seedless cucumber 12s received $3, the USDA reported, down from $8-10.95 a year earlier.
Aaron Quon, greenhouse category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, said he expects total North American production volume of greenhouse vegetables to increase because of new greenhouse construction, including projects in Ontario and in California and Texas.
He said he expects to see bigger volumes of tomatoes and cucumbers on the market this year.
It’s not necessarily consumer demand that’s driving increased production. Instead, companies add greenhouses to diversify crop mixes and to provide year-round programs, Quon said.
"Retailers are looking for 12 months’ supply from greenhouses," he said.
Langley, British Columbia-based BC Hot House Foods Inc.’s production volume this year is expected to be 28% greater than last year’s, said Kevin Batt, director of sales.
The company has added new growers, and it expects to add more growers and expand acreage next year. He said the entire company is eagerly anticipating continued growth.
"Expansion in British Columbia doesn’t happen all the time," Batt said. "We’re excited to see growth."
Mild winter weather and more sunlight than last season have put production ahead of last year for BC Hot House.
It started harvesting hothouse cucumbers by late February, Batt said. The cucumbers kick off the company’s British Columbia production, with other products maturing in March and April.
In addition to its core items of beefsteak tomatoes, tomatoes on the vine, cucumbers and red, yellow and orange bell peppers, BC Hot House markets specialty tomatoes and peppers, including Blushers sweet pink cherry tomatoes, mini blocky bell peppers, and red, yellow, orange and green chili peppers.
Leamington, Ontario-based JemD Farms expects to market about 10% more tomato volume this year as compared to last, said Jim DiMenna, president.
It has increased acreage in Canada and in Mexico. Peppers and cucumbers also are big-volume items for JemD.
The company has increased pepper acreage for 2012, he said.
Delta, British Columbia-based Village Farms International’s newest year-round production facility, a high-tech greenhouse in Monahans, Texas, has its first 30 acres of tomatoes in production.
The company announced on Feb. 21 that it had harvested its first fruit from the greenhouse, which uses its proprietary Greenhouse Advanced Technology Environment System. Grower Arie Van der Giessen serves in the Monahans location as regional facility manager, said Doug Kling, senior vice president and chief marketing officer.
Kling said hothouse tomato purchases by consumers increased in 2011 as compared to 2010, in part because adverse weather in Mexico and Florida damaged field crops.
Kling said he’s excited to see the overall tomato category growing.