( File photo )

Amid continued growth in protected agriculture south of the border, Mexico and the U.S are negotiating a new five year-price minimum price suspension agreement for tomatoes.

The agreement ended March this year and must be renewed, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agriculture Service. More than 600 Mexican growers and exporters signed the agreement in 2013, which specifies minimum prices for tomatoes produced in fields and protected environments in the winter and summer.

The USDA FAS report “Mexico Tomato Annual: Protected Agriculture Production Expanding,” said Mexico’s fresh tomato exports to the U.S. for 2018-19 season are projected at 1.7 million metric tons, similar to volume in 2017-18 and 2016-17. 
Total Mexican tomato production in the 2018-19 season is forecast at 3.4 million metric tons, similar to 3.43 million metric tons in 2017-18 and 3.46 million metric tons in 2016-17, according to the report.


Planted acreage dip

Mexico’s planted area for tomatoes in 2018-19 is forecast at 122,564 acres, down from 123,058 acres in 2017-18 and 124,474 acres in 2016-17, according to the report.

The ongoing negotiations for a new minimum price suspension agreement between Mexican tomato growers and the U.S. Department of Commerce are making planting decisions challenging for growers, according to the report.

Mexican tomato acreage topped 211,000 acres in 1990 but dipped to a low of 110,000 in 2012-13. 

“Although recently an increase in area planted has been reported, the rate of growth is small as tomato producing states like Sinaloa and Baja California continue to move from open field production to protected production, using less total area while also increasing yields,” the report said.

Yields for roma tomatoes in Sinaloa grown under protected agriculture can reach 81 metric tons per acre, compared with just 15 metric tons per acre for open field romas.

In addition, some producers from Sinaloa are producing tomatoes in the states of Michoacán, Jalisco, and Queretaro to have access to the summer export window after the winter window is finished by the month of May the report said.


Protected agriculture expanding 

Area throughout Mexico planted to tomatoes in protected agriculture was about 37,500 acres in 2016-17, up from about 8,000 acres in 2010. However, the rate of increase in protected agriculture has slowed to less than 2,500 acres per years, the USDA report said.
The USDA said the main horticultural products produced under protected technology are tomato (70%), bell pepper (16%), cucumber (10%) and the rest include flowers, chili peppers, berries and papayas.