( Bell pepper photo courtesy Irene Kredenets; Tomato photo courtesy Rezel Apacionado )

Tomatoes and bell peppers are two of the most popular winter produce items shipping from West Mexico, and distributors receiving product through the Nogales, Ariz., port of entry say quality should be good and supplies ample on both commodities.

Rain in Culiacan is expected to delay the start of round tomatoes a bit, said Javier Badillo, owner of Fresh International LLC, Rio Rico, Ariz.

The company usually starts importing mature-green tomatoes around Dec. 10, he said. But this year, shipments likely will not arrive in Rio Rico until Dec. 15 or 20.

Romas that would kick off in mid-December may not arrive until late in the month.

“We’re about 10 days late,” he said.

The good news is that weather as of mid-November had been good. 

“Good quality tomatoes is what we are looking at at this point,” Badillo said.

Fresh International also will have a small crop of grape tomatoes this year out of Culiacan from early January until mid-May. Another harvest should begin in central Mexico in July, enabling the company to offer grape tomatoes 10 months of the year, he said.

Nogales-based Bernardi & Associates Inc. handles tomatoes year-round from various growing areas in Mexico, California and Florida, said president Joe Bernardi.

The company will continue to source from Baja California until the first of the year and expected to start its West Mexico deal with romas and a few round tomatoes in late November.

Roma volume should pick up during December, and major volume of round tomatoes out of Nogales should start after the first of the year.

The company wants to be a “consistent source of good quality tomatoes year-round,” Bernardi said, offering mature-green and vine-ripe tomatoes.

Nogales-based Tricar Sales Inc. expected to start shipping roma tomatoes from West Mexico the first week of December with round tomatoes kicking off around Dec. 20, said Rod Sbragia, director of sales and marketing.

Turning to bell peppers, Fresh International will start shipping green bell peppers from Culiacan in mid-December, Badillo said.

Volume might be up a bit compared to last year.

The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, will promote red, orange and yellow sweet bell peppers in bulk and value-added packs heavily this winter along with mini sweet peppers, said Aaron Quon, executive category director of greenhouse.

The peppers, from Mexican grower-shipper Divemex, will be available in conventional and organic.

IPR Fresh, Rio Rico, Ariz., offers special bag options for its bell peppers, said Jose Luis Obregon, president.

Those options include: 

  • Three-count rainbow packs (red, orange, yellow);
  • Three-count stoplight packs (green, yellow and red);
  • Mixed-color 2-pound bags packed 10 per box; and
  • Six-count mixed-color bags. 

Certain retailers prefer bags sold by weight, while others like bags sold by count, he said.

IPR’s bell peppers are greenhouse-grown, while green bell peppers are grown in shade houses. They’re packed under the Fresh Republic and IPR Fresh labels.

Tricar Sales started its green bell peppers in mid-November and was scheduled to start red, yellow and orange bell peppers around the first of the year, Sbragia said.

He expected good quality.

Bernardi & Associates has steady demand for its green, red and yellow bell peppers, Bernardi said.

As with its tomato program, the company offers bell peppers year-round from various locations.

Product from Nogales should be available through mid-April, he said.

“Quality looks good,” he added.

Jesus Gonzalez, general manager at Crown Jewels Produce in Nogales, said he expected a good crop of green, red, yellow and orange bell peppers starting the first or second week of December.

“Everything is looking really good,” he said in mid-November. “We should have a very nice crop with good sizing.” 

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