Severe Mexican vegetable shortages expected into March

Saturday, February 12, 2011
By Paul Martin

By Andy Nelson

Supplies of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and other vegetables from Mexico will be severely limited until at least March following an early February freeze.

Prior to Feb. 4, southern Sinaloa had not suffered a real freeze since 1957, said Jerry Wagner, sales and marketing director for Nogales, Ariz.-based Farmer’s Best International LLC.

The results in the short term, and the mid- to long term for some crops, are devastating.

“The end of February and first half of March, there will be even worse shortages of product” than in the first half of February, Wagner said.

The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, however, said damage wasn’t widescale, due to “microclimates” that protected some areas while destroying other fields. Some items will have “steady but reduced” volumes for up to 8 weeks, according to the association, Nogales.

“Contrary to some early prognostications, we expect to see steady supplies of key items like tomatoes, bell peppers and melons throughout the season,” said FPAA president Lance Jungmeyer in a news release.

Heavily damaged vine-ripe tomato plants, for instance, won’t be bearing new fruit until late March, Wagner said. Even then, volumes are a big question mark.

“Future volume has been greatly affected, and even on plants that presently look sound, they’ll have to start from scratch trying to make flowers,” he said.

Similar losses were expected on romas and grape tomatoes, Wagner said.

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