Cool weather delays start of Western greenhouse deals

01/10/2011 10:15:47 AM
Andy Nelson

Unseasonably cool weather in Mexico has delayed shipments of greenhouse vegetables by as much as 10-14 days for many shippers and importers of greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

Typically, Nogales, Ariz.-based Ciruli Bros. LLC. begins getting product in early December, said Chris Ciruli, a partner in the company. This year, it’s closer to Dec. 15-20.

“We’re a little behind from where we want to be,” he said.

Volume shipments of tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers won’t likely begin until January, Ciruli said.

But even in a normal year, the company doesn’t have enough greenhouse product to promote substantially for Christmas and New Year’s, so Ciruli Bros. is not missing a big marketing opportunity because of the delays, Ciruli said.

With its Canadian greenhouse tomato, cucumber and pepper deals winding down, Leamington, Ontario-based Westmoreland Sales was sourcing greenhouse peppers from Mexico and, by plane, from Spain in December, said Matt Wright, the company’s director of procurement.

Cool growing weather in Mexico had tightened supplies heading into the winter holidays and driven prices up, but overall, production should be up in 2010-11, Wright said.

“Right now we’re behind where we were a year ago, but it will catch up, probably very shortly,” he said.

“There will be a lot of product in January.”

Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International LLC expects to ship about similar volumes of red, orange and yellow greenhouse bell peppers from its Coachella Valley houses as it did last year, said Mike Aiton, the company’s marketing director.

“Our California acreage hasn’t changed,” Aiton said.

The company’s California greenhouse deal kicked off Oct. 15 and is expected to continue into May, Aiton said.

“It’s a nice, long season,” he said. “The temperatures are mild, and the extra heat helps keep the peppers growing.”

Prime Time packs its California greenhouse peppers at its Mecca, Calif., packinghouse, Aiton said.

The company’s Mexican deal, meanwhile, also was in full swing by late fall, Aiton said, with peak volumes from its Baja California greenhouse colored bell deal expected in December and January.

Mainland greenhouse volumes, from its Guadalajara greenhouses and imported through Nogales, Ariz., were expected until April, Aiton said.

Bryant Ambelang, president and chief executive officer of San Antonio-based Desert Glory Ltd., said he had “great” expectations heading into the heart of the 2010-11 greenhouse tomato season.

“It’s definitely different from last year, when everybody had weather problems,” he said.

Desert Glory, which has greenhouses in the Nayarit region of Mexico, was one of the lucky few not to be touched by those weather problems in 2009-10, Ambelang said.

But that didn’t mean the company was able to capitalize on the stronger demand. That’s because Desert Glory sells its product on contract in advance.

“When product is tight, it doesn’t help us,” he said.

“When the poor guys in Florida were wiped out, it didn’t help us. Quite honestly, last year was nothing but a headache.”

Ambelang said he looks forward to a significantly more headache-free season in 2010-11, with production returning to more normal levels for all growers — greenhouse and field-grown.

In December Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group was marketing greenhouse vegetables from California and Mexico, said Aaron Quon, the company’s greenhouse vegetable category manager.

This winter Oppenheimer is offering a full line of greenhouse vegetables including beefsteak, grape, strawberry, cocktail, yellow and orange on-the-vine tomatoes; red, yellow and orange peppers; long English cucumbers; mini cucumbers; and red and yellow organic bells, Quon said.

Nogales-based Apache Produce Co. expects a similar mix of greenhouse vegetables out of its Mexican growing operations in Sinaloa and — new this season — Nayarit, said Alberto Maldanado, the company’s general manager.

About 60% of Apache’s greenhouse production will likely be tomatoes, about 25% cucumbers and about 15% peppers, Maldanado said.

Those percentages haven’t changed much in several years, Maldanado said.

Nogales-based SunFed began shipping cucumbers, bell peppers and roma tomatoes from northern Sonora, Mexico, in late September, said Danny Mandel, a principal and chief executive officer.

The company is sourcing greenhouse product this season from 14 sites in Mexico, 11 of which are in Sonora and Sinaloa, Mandel said.



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