Western greenhouse growers expect steady volumes

12/16/2011 01:17:00 PM
Susie Cable

Growers and marketers are looking forward to a decent winter supply of vegetables from protected acreage, and they are hopeful there won’t be another freak February freeze in Mexico like the one that destroyed crops earlier this year.

The unusual freeze damaged many crops in Mexico and drastically reduced Rio Rico, Ariz.-based Ciruli Bros. LLC’s supplies, said Chris Ciruli, partner and chief operating officer.

Cucumbers in particular were hit hard, but colored bell pepper and tomato crops also were hurt.

Ciruli says he hopes for better weather and expects bigger volumes this season.

At the beginning of the year, about half of Ciruli’s crops were open-field and half were protected. When the freeze hit, some crops were protected by plastic, while others were under mesh.

This year, all are protected by plastic, Ciruli said.

“We hope to fare better than last year if we have weather like that, but I think last year was an oddity,” he said.

Ciruli and other industry members said the freeze was the worst in about 60 years.

In addition to providing needed protection in case of another freeze, converting crops from open fields to protected agriculture should provide a more consistently high quality supply, Ciruli said.

All of Ciruli Bros.’s cucumbers and tomatoes this winter will be greenhouse-grown.

This season, Ciruli Bros. is adding green bell peppers and eggplant to its line of protected agriculture items, Ciruli said. It also markets colored bell peppers, round tomatoes, roma tomatoes and cucumbers.

The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, also expects a greater volume of greenhouse vegetables this season as compared to last, as long as there isn’t another unexpected freeze, said Aaron Quon, greenhouse category director.

Demand for greenhouse produce continues to grow, and the company continues to add acreage to keep pace, he said. Oppenheimer has added partnerships with three greenhouse growers in Mexico that are producing tomatoes on the vine, long English cucumbers and slicer cucumbers.

Oppenheimer plans to market Mexico-grown long English cucumbers, mini cucumbers, slicer cucumbers, beefsteak tomatoes, tomatoes on the vine and Fair Trade, conventional and organic colored bell peppers, Quon said.

In late November, the crops were healthy and on schedule, he said.

Nogales, Ariz.-based SunFed’s protected agriculture production began as usual in September in the Caborca, Sonora, area of Mexico, and should transition normally to the states of Sinaloa and Colima for its main winter production, said Danny Mandel, principal.


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