Protected vegetable deals extend Mexico's reach

09/16/2011 01:14:00 PM
Dan Gailbraith

Mexico’s vegetable industry isn’t just a winter deal anymore, and protected agriculture is the reason, growers and shippers in the deal say.

This year has been no exception, said Bobby Patton, vice president of marketing with San Antonio-based NatureSweet Ltd.

“Our year has gone extremely well,” he said.

“We continue to have double-digit growth. With that, we’re having growth in acreages. We’re building more greenhouses. We’ve had to because of the growth in the business in the U.S., primarily, but also Canada.”

NatureSweet ships tomatoes year-round, Patton said.

“We’re not in the business of being out during the winter season, so it requires the year-round growing,” he said.

The industry continues to grow, said Gregg Biada, vice president of Global Fresh Import & Export, which is based in Bonita Springs, Fla., and is a subsidiary of Springfield, Ill.-based Tom Lange Co.

“There are more acres being planted down there,” he said.

“It is year-round, but, for me, where my customers are located, it makes more sense for them to switch to the Canadian deal during the April to November time frame.”

When bad weather strikes, the value of the protected agriculture products is enhanced, Biada said.

“Field-grown, obviously, is more affected by weather than the greenhouse. When field is affected, everybody is chasing after greenhouse product.”

As the years roll by, the Mexico protected agriculture industry has built on lessons learned and perfected its craft, said Fried DeSchouwer, president of Vero Beach, Fla.-based Greenhouse Produce Co. LLC.

“They get better and become more efficient, and they will have significant quality available on a year-round basis,” he said.

“They still lag behind Northern producers when it comes to yield per acre. I would say that even though we have thousands of acres — Mexico when it comes to acres, is much larger than Canada and the United States combined — their yields per acre are way below those Canadian and American producers have obtained.”

How can they catch up?

“There are a couple of things,” DeSchouwer said.

“You extend your crop. If you have a longer season, you’re going to pick longer and you’re going to pick more per acre or square meter. Two, you produce in times where we have that are lighter, June through August. No. 3 is you look at crops. Overall management will enable you to get that better.


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