The winter West Mexico vegetable deal has begun with more organic supplies than ever before.
“We’ve increased our acreage and we believe supplies are keeping up with demand,” said Kristina Luna, sales manager for Wholesum Family Farms Inc., Nogales, AZ, adding that other growers and distributors have also increased Mexican production in the last couple of years. “Although no one else is 100 percent organic like we are,” she said.
Luna said cucumbers and the squashes have very good organic supplies at the current time and should offer retailers promotional opportunities moving into the Christmas holiday season. Seconding this viewpoint was Jerry Havel, director of sales and marketing for Fresh Farms, one of the Nogales operations that has entered the organic sector in recent years.
“We started about three years ago with zucchini and both American and English cucumbers,” he said. “We are building the program from there.”
During the first week of December, Havel said the squash market was only about $6 per carton for organic supplies with cucumber prices also being relatively low. “At this point it looks like supply has caught with demand in these items,” he said.
Havel noted there is a stronger market for eggplant, peppers and tomatoes but Fresh Farms is not supplying those items in an organic SKU just yet. Luna confirmed that organic tomatoes are tight mirroring the conventional market…and for the same reason. She noted that the October storms in Florida wiped out some fields and the replanted acreages has yet to catch up to its typical output. While Mexico’s organic tomato supplies are normal, she said demand for tomatoes from the West is much higher than normal because of the Florida situation.
Joe Bernardi of Bernardi & Associates, a tomato broker with offices in Nogales and most of the major production areas, predicted that the hot tomato market, for both organic and conventional product, will remain the case until early January. “Both conventional and organic tomatoes are grown in the same place so if we are having trouble with conventional supplies, we are going to have the same problems with organic tomatoes,” he said.
During the first full week of December, the conventional tomato market was trading in the high $20s to low $30s per carton, while prices for organic tomatoes were mostly in the low $30s to the high $30s, depending upon size and tomato type.
Berardi said organic tomato production has increased in the Mexican growing regions and there should be increased supplies throughout this winter season.
Luna said Wholesum projects its supplies far in advance and she expects a very good season for organic winter vegetables into early spring, barring unforeseen weather issues. “Of course in agriculture there is never certainty, but I am looking at our supply projections for the next two to three months and I see no major obstacles in the way,” she said.