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Weather in Coachella has been very favourable

Bell peppers hope to see a better upcoming season over last winter

On the eve of its peak two months (May and June), Mike Aiton recently spent many weeks out on the road visiting some of Prime Time Produce’s key customers to build up momentum behind their bell pepper crop before it gets underway. “We have peppers every single day of the year,” he said. “People that are looking for consistency have come (on board) and we’ve been able to secure several long term and shorter term contracts.” Prime Time’s contract prices may be fixed for a year at a time. Bell peppers grown rank in order by volume: red, green, minis, yellow and orange. 

Transitioning from Mexico to California
Bell peppers are transitioning into the USA. In the winter Aiton says they spend most of their time harvesting from mainland Mexico, in and around Sinaloa, but that’s winding down and moving into Baja California. Last week the green bell harvest began in Coachella. “When one area is winding down and the other’s are ramping up we want to assure our customers that supplies will be uninterrupted,” he said. “We don’t see any problems supply wise and hopefully we will get some promotions behind this crop for retailers over the next couple of months.” 

All of the bell peppers grown in the US are open field but, Aiton says, the vast majority grown in Mexico are in a protected environment. “In Mexico there’s a lot of pressure from bugs and disease and in addition to extending the season, having products inside is a good thing. Also building those facilities in Mexico costs less than it would in the US.” 

Ideal weather in Coachella; less than favourable winter in Mexico
Growing conditions have been “perfect”, in his words. “The desert here in California’s Coachella Valley, and also Baja, didn't have the severe rains that central and northern California had. We had rain but it wasn’t the kind that would impact planting schedules or limit growth in the production of the peppers. All in all things are tracking really well.” Temperatures are in the 90-degree range already and he’s looking to be on track for typical starting times for the new bell pepper crops. 

On the other hand, he said the winter season in Mexico “was more or less dreadful” in terms of prices. “The peppers and many other items remained under the cost of production for months at a time. It was a difficult season for us and we assume for many others as well. As growers always are, we’re optimistic about the next turn and hoping that things straighten themselves out and the markets get back on track.” Prices are currently stable but not what you might get excited about. “There are still a lot of peppers available from diverse growing areas but we think the market should advance by the time we get into May.” 

Continuously growing category
Bell peppers are still a growing category. Aiton says the commodity lends itself well to promotions and retailers can see big increases by advertising and expanding display size. “Demand is currently good but I think winter production outpaced the demand, which, coupled with a general lack of interest, made it a difficult time for not only peppers but many other crops as well.” 

Eastern United States customers have recently expressed interest in Prime Time’s peppers and have come on board due to the damage to crops in Georgia and Florida, Aiton said. “With all of the bad weather they’ve had in the past month things are a little bit delayed in the east, particularly with green bell peppers. They seem to be on the tight side and the markets are fairly good there and we have customers from the east coast looking to the west coast and normally that doesn’t happen at this time of year.” 

For more information: 
Mike Aiton 
Prime Time Produce 
Tel: 760.399.4278 

Publication date: 4/21/2017
Author: Rebecca D Dumais
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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