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Nogales Fresco

Profiling the produce portal of the Southwest

“Nogales and Texas borders are really two different animals,” commented Robert Bennen Jr., president of Ta-De Distributing Company. “It’s undeniable that Texas offers a freight advantage to customers in the Midwest and East Coast, and there is a tremendous amount of volume crossing through those ports right now. The big problem is that there are many points of crossing, with warehouses strewn about hundreds of miles apart.

“What we have in Nogales is unique: an incredible mix of products, and all the volume is warehoused within an eight- mile radius,” Bennen continued. “For customers seeking the greatest variety of fresh produce in one place, Nogales is the undisputed solution.”

Switching Tomatoes for Cukes
The recent revision of the Tomato Suspension Agreement, which prohibits the sale of Mexican-grown tomatoes below a set price (to prevent unfair competition with domestic growers, most notably Florida), has led a number of Mexican tomato growers to uproot tomatoes and plant other commodities with less restrictive pricing policies.

“A lot of growers who have traditionally planted tomatoes are cutting back and planting European cucumbers and Persian pickles instead,” said Nunez. “This shift has been encouraged by a Mexican government subsidy for shadehouses and greenhouses. These commodities are a large part of our business, and we are expecting this market to get more competitive in the coming years.”

“The past few years have seen a big increase in shadehouse production of European cucumbers and bell peppers,” confirmed Burkett. “Farming this way, they’re able to produce four to five times as much as you would have ten years ago in an open field. They are also able to start the season earlier and end later, which has made for a different game plan when it comes to sales. With more consistency and certainty of supply and quality, we can sell ahead of time a little easier.”

Canadian distributors and growers are also increasingly investing in Mexican-based shade- and greenhouse operations to meet growing demand for cucumbers and other items, as a more cost-efficient alternative to greenhouse growing during Canadian winters, Nunez explained.

With the new Mariposa port planning to open on time, and the promise of a bigger winter deal, things are looking good for Nogales this year and beyond. Distributors are finding ways to deal with the bumps in the road and the caretakers of the port are working hard to make sure the new facility is staffed and running as smoothly and safely as possible.

“The nature of this business is that everyone is looking for what’s right and cost effective, right now,” Emmerman said. “Today, the best way to handle the produce trade is the way we are doing it. Tomorrow, that may shift, but we are committed to being as competitive as we can, to meet the needs of our business people, and to have the most efficient port of entry possible.”

Images: Shutterstock


Chris O’Brien is a freelance writer and researcher based in Boulder, CO. He specializes in business trends with a focus on sustainable industries.