Popularity of greenhouse-grown grows

01/10/2011 10:28:21 AM
Andy Nelson

Greenhouse-grown tomatoes, cucumbers and colored bell peppers continue to gain market share, importers and shippers say.

Demand for greenhouse-grown product continues to go up, said Bryant Ambelang, president and chief executive officer of San Antonio-based Desert Glory Ltd.

Desert Glory expects to expand its production by about 20% this season with new greenhouse construction in the Nayarit region of Mexico, Ambelang said.

And it’s not just Desert Glory that’s enjoying greater demand for protected ag.

“Every retailer I talk to says growth in greenhouse-grown is significant,” Ambelang said.

“It’s predictable, it’s safer, it’s more sustainable — you use less water and fertilizer.”

One thing retailers love about greenhouse is they can lock in supplies with producers for six months in advance, Ambelang said.

And with companies like Desert Glory, they have the added predictability of contract pricing secured in advance.

Chris Ciruli, a partner in Nogales, Ariz.-based Ciruli Bros. LLC, expects across-the-board increases of as much as 30% in supplies of greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers from Mexico this season.

“Markets were good last year, and growers had the capital to add to their facilities space-wise,” he said. “It’s fairly aggressive.”

Demand for the 2010-11 season started to pick up in early December, as colder weather began to phase out deals in competition with the Mexican greenhouse deals, Ciruli said.

Thanks to greater demand, Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group expects its greenhouse vegetable category to grow by 15% this season, said Aaron Quon, the company’s greenhouse vegetable category manager.

In the field-grown versus greenhouse debate, people definitely take sides, said Mike Aiton, marketing director for Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International LLC.

Fortunately for Prime Time and its Coachella Valley and Mexico greenhouse deals, greenhouse remains a popular option for many.

In fact, for some it’s becoming more popular than ever.

“Different customers have different preferences as to what they like, but demand is good,” Aiton said.

“Greenhouse continues to grow. The pepper category — especially the coloreds — have shown steady, consistent growth the last few years.”

Growers of greenhouse, shadehouse and other controlled-environment vegetables continue to benefit from consumers’ increased concern for food safety, and for customers’ need to have a consistent supply of product available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, Aiton said.


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