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Mexico’s North American Lineup

What it takes to keep exports flowing north
MS_NAmerican Lineup

“A lot of the farmers in Mexico are high-tech growers, especially in Central Mexico,” points out Losolla. “They grow in shade houses and high-tech greenhouses. With protected agriculture, you have superb, extremely high-quality produce.”

This, of course, is certainly not news to growers in Leamington, Ontario, the mecca of greenhouse growing for Canada, and a highly respected older sibling to Mexico’s efforts. And thanks to the success of Canada and Mexico, more commercial growers in the United States are now dabbling in protected growing.

Large greenhouses have sprung up in various pockets of the country, including the Midwest and East Coast. There are relatively new operations in Illinois and Ohio, as well as Virginia and even in New York, built to survive that region’s incredibly inhospitable winters, providing fresh ‘local’ vegetables to wholesalers, retailers, and restaurants.

Vegetables Dominate for Now
Like Leamington, Mexico’s protected operations primarily grow tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers—but some are branching out into berries and other commodities. The highlands of Central Mexico are home to large clusters of these high-tech structures.

Today, more than half of total protected culture acreage can be found in Sinaloa, Baja California, Baja Cali­­­­­­­-fornia Sur, Jalisco, and Estado de Mexico. Guanajuato and Michoacán, however, are also hotspots seeing strong growth in the category.

As these protected operations continue to expand, the Mexican market is flush with greenhouse-grown produce. For the 2016-17 marketing year, Mexico’s greenhouse tomato production was estimated at almost 3 million metric tons, an increase over the previous year.

Annually, nearly 80 percent of Mexico’s greenhouse vegetables are exported to the United States, with 4 percent shipped to Canada to augment its own protected agriculture supply. According to the Mexican Association of Protected Horticulture (AMHPAC), half of all Mexican vegetables exported to the United States are grown in greenhouses.

The Association includes 200 partners producing more than 1.1 million tons of vegetables each year—primarily tomatoes (70 percent of production), peppers (19 percent) and cucumbers (17 percent). A few partners, as mentioned above, are producing the usual fare but also branching out to include eggplant and other items like strawberries.