Not a lot can get in the way of the start of the Tex-Mex produce deal.
Rain or hurricanes can slow up plantings and delay harvest, but so far this season, there is no sign of either.
As last season’s hard freeze showed, it’s what comes later in the season that matters.
Chris Eddy, general manager for Edinburg, Texas-based Frontera Produce Ltd., said the company started harvesting Texas-grown cilantro in early November and expects to start Texas-grown cabbage around Thanksgiving.
“We’re also on the tail end of planting our onion crop,” Eddy said in mid-November.
“All of that is in the ground and peeking through.”
Everything’s looking good so far, he said.
Curtis DeBerry, president of Boerne, Texas-based Progreso Produce Ltd., agreed.
“The cabbage crop looks great right now,” he said.
“We have good stands and everything’s showing good color.”
Water’s not an issue for grower-shippers this season, said John McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association, Mission.
Virtually all the crops grown in Texas are irrigated, McClung said.
“We are in a drought, but a year or two years ago we had a lot of rain, and it was largely captured in the two big reservoirs so we have adequate irrigation water,” he said.
After a few years of declines, Texas acreage is holding steady, McClung said.
“Citrus is around 25,000 to 26,000 acres and vegetables depend from year to year on prices and rain and a number of variables,” he said.
While Texas remains the No. 3 shipper of fresh produce in the U.S., the majority of produce now is imported from Mexico, McClung said.
“Sixty percent of the produce we’re shipping is coming from Mexico, but when you get behind that 60%, it is generally product that is planted by Mexican growers in contract with U.S. growers and is planted with the intention of shipping it to the U.S., McClung said.
“That means it is grown to meet U.S. requirements and specifications.”
With a new Mexican highway on the horizon, the Rio Grande Valley is gearing up for more traffic.
The Autopista Durango-Mazatlan is a 143-mile east-west highway slated to open for traffic by the end of 2012. West Mexico shippers anticipate a quicker and cheaper avenue to Eastern U.S. markets through the Rio Grande Valley.
With the additional traffic comes an increased demand for cold storage facilities. Bland Distribution Services, Donna, Texas, a facility owned by Glennville, Ga.-based Bland Farms LLC, just finished a project to double its pallet capacity for cold storage back in March.
“We went from 1,700 pallet positions to 3,100 pallet positions,” said Nick Sanchez, general manager.
“And we do have room for future expansion. We’re waiting for the floodgates to open.”
The McAllen Produce Terminal Market is at capacity, said Carlos Zambito, general manager.
The market’s owner, Abasto Corp., is leasing space to produce companies at its other warehousing facility — which wasn’t designed with produce in mind.
“We’re basically leasing them the space and they’re putting in the refrigeration,” Zambito said.
Pharr, Texas-based Don Hugo Produce Inc. broke ground on a $100 million, 227,000-square-foot facility in Edinburg in January.
According to news reports, the facility is the anchor of a new 86-acre Rio Grande Produce Park near U.S. Highway 281 and is expected to open in December.