Mexican greenhouse production is likely to expand into more commodities, growers say.

“Peppers and tomatoes really started the trend and then cucumbers kind of joined the parade. Now, because of the benefits, we’re seeing a whole lot more variety go into greenhouse production,” said Mike Aiton, marketing director at Prime Time International, Coachella, Calif.

Alfredo Diaz, CEO of the Culiacan-based Mexican Association of Protected Horticulture confirms with numbers from Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture’s office, which estimates that 70% of the protected surface in Mexico is used for growing tomatoes, 16% for bell peppers and 10% for cucumbers.

“AMHPAC’s production has similar numbers with 67% of the surface destined to tomatoes, 17% to cucumbers and 15% to bell peppers,” Diaz said.

Of that product, Diaz estimates that 80% of the production has the American market as a final destination, leaving 16% for national consumption and 4% for Canada.

In the future, Aiton expects to see more eggplants, green beans, squash and other vegetables be produced in protected environments.

Others agree.

“We’re always on a quest to find other viable products to grow in the greenhouse, whether conventional or organic. It takes time and investment and focus, but we continue to look for those options,” said Fried De Schouwer, president, Greenhouse Produce Co. LLC, Vero Beach, Fla.

Ciruli Bros. LLC, Nogales, Ariz., will increase its hot pepper production this year with jalapeño, serrano and anaheim varieties, all grown in the Los Mochis area, said Sandra Aguilar, marketing manager.

In the future, even more variety could be seen.

“I think we might start to see people experimenting with even more different items to grow in greenhouses. We may see melons, papayas, strawberries and others,” said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

However, Jungmeyer isn’t sure which of the new commodities will end up staying indoors.

“It depends on the trials and whether things work in those environments so we’ll have to see how it all plays out,” he said.

When it comes to implementing these new products, Jimmy Coppola, account and marketing manager for Westmoreland Sales, Leamington, Ontario, said growers may be hesitant.

“It’s always a difficult sell to get a greenhouse operation that a family has farmed for generations to take a huge risk in growing a new item that may not have a proven track record,” he said.

Of course, Coppola doesn’t mean to say taking calculated risks never pays off.

“A calculated risk in growing a new item may be key in finding and developing new products which would help differentiate one company from another and find that one new item that everyone is trying to get their hands on,” he said.