2023 Mexican vegetable status greatly improved over last year

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2023 Mexican vegetable status greatly improved over last year

When Craig Slate visited Culiacan farms in mid-February, he found the temperatures colder than normal. Abnormally cool weather has slowed some of the production out of the Sinaloa area. Also impacting the Mexican vegetable deal this winter has been excessive rain particularly to the north in the state of Sonora. Slate is the CEO of the Rio Rico, AZ-based company, SunFed. 

On Feb. 24 he told FreshFruitPortal.com that, despite the wet and cooler weather in Mexico, this year’s production and market prices have been much better than 2022. A year ago, “there were significant labor headwinds that impacted production while farms were also battling dramatic year over year cost increases in 2022. This all made for a very difficult first quarter last year. The outlook for the first and second quarters of 2023 looks better than 2022. 

That said, skilled labor availability will remain a challenge for some time. Mexican minimum wage rates rose 20 percent as of January 2023 and there is an increase in competing industries drawing workers from the fields to other industries such as manufacturing.   

Although there has been a slow start to the Culiacan production, things are poised to start “rocking and rolling” in March. Eggplant, cucumbers, colored bells and other vegetables will run strong before the traditional fade as the heat rolls in late April and May. 

Sonoran vegetable production is underway in Guaymas for SunFed but starting to wind down. The transition north has started and SunFed should be going strong there by mid-March.

“The quality of the production is good. The cold slowed things up – particularly for the colored bells and eggplant – so the timing was affected, but the quality is great.” Squash market prices have not been outstanding but the other vegetable and melon items have seen reasonably good markets.

The production outlook for West Mexico is good. While unlikely, the greatest threat to production could be late-winter cold in Sonora. 

SunFed introducing new Viola Petite eggplant

By late March, SunFed will have on the market its new Viola Petite eggplant, Slate says.

that his firm was wrapping up a pilot test of the new small eggplant, and expects to commercially go to market soon. “We are super-excited” about the Viola Petite because “the consumers, we believe, enjoy a smaller eggplant because they tend to be more tender and have a milder flavor profile. Also, we will market the Petite Viola with an attractive price point to help bring new consumers to the category.

The Viola Petite will ship in a new retail display carton to merchandise the new item. 

Currently eggplant sales are heavily concentrated on the East Coast, particularly the Northeast. “However, we believe that with the right marketing and product the eggplant market is ripe for expansion” Slate adds, “With a growing number of consumers moving to plant-based diets or consumers looking to replace high cost animal proteins, eggplant is an ideal meat substitute.” 

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