A supervisor at Divemex's greenhouse in Etzatlan, Mexico, checks on the company's bell peppers. ( Courtesy The Oppenheimer Group )

Mexico’s fruit and vegetable production starts to peak in the winter months, with a long list of items headed to U.S. and Canadian markets.

“We’re coming up on our busiest time of the year,” said Dante Galeazzi, president of the Mission-based Texas International Produce Association. 

“Starting late January and going, really, through September, are the heaviest crossing volumes for fresh produce coming into Texas. Avocados, limes, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, watermelons, onions, limes, mangoes. We have a very wide range of commodities flowing across the Texas bridges.” 

It’s a busy time for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group and its Mexico-based grower-partner Divemex, said Aaron Quon, Oppy’s executive greenhouse category director.

Oppy’s main imports from Mexico through the winter include organic and conventional Fair Trade Certified sweet bell peppers, mini peppers and cucumbers from Divemex, he said.

“We also offer a robust Mexican avocado program year-round, as well as a seasonal berry program,” he said.

Focusing on the greenhouse category, Oppenheimer’s pepper volumes are steady and “poised to increase, especially from mid-February forward,” Quon said.

This year, however, offers a weather-related wrinkle, said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

“We have seen continued cold weather in West Mexico that has limited supplies all season,” Jungmeyer said. 

He said the industry emerged from a cold snap around the start of the year that could affect shipments for months.

Overall, there should be plenty of supplies, said Jerry Havel, sales and marketing director with Nogales-based Fresh Farms.

“Going forward, we look to have enough volume to get us into March before the spring crop starts,” Havel said. 

“Both the quality and the volume will be strong enough to promote in late January and all of February.”

Fresh Farms will be promoting zucchini, cucumbers, English cucumbers, sweet corn, green bell peppers, colored bell peppers, eggplant, hard squashes and green beans, Havel said.

Edinburg, Texas-based Frontera Produce Ltd. looks to Mexico in the winter for several items, said Trevor Stuart, account manager.

“Over the next three months, our main import commodities out of Mexico for Frontera are your full line of chili peppers, bell peppers and limes, and, later, the kick-off to the start of mango season,” he said.

Weather events have created a few problems for Greenhouse Produce Co., a Vero Beach, Fla.-based grower shipper that grows tomatoes and peppers in Mexico, said Fried DeSchouwer, president.

“We’ve had some diseases in grape tomatoes and some with peppers in the greenhouses; this happened last year, too, although this year seems to be a lot better, but people are growing a few less peppers because of these diseases,” DeSchouwer said. 

“The saga continues with organics, with disease pressure continuing to impact organic crops.”

Overall, though, there should be ample volumes available, DeSchouwer said. 

“Overall, they’re producing well. It’s just that, as always, the weather is unpredictable,” he said. 

“We’ve had some colder weather — although not very cold — and much more than the usual amount of rain. Most of the crops are on schedule.”