Every year, tons and tons of Mexican produce - worth billions of dollars - pass through the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales. The import business is the most important source of private employment in the small border town, and those products end up in grocery stores and on dinner tables across the American West.
“When we look at Nogales, the produce imports are a really big deal,” said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.
Few imports have been as financially significant for Nogales as the tomato. This most recent season they accounted for roughly a third of the $1.7 billion in vegetables that crossed there, according to federal trade data.
But for the most recent produce season, the $584 million worth of tomatoes that crossed through Hidalgo, Texas, outdid Nogales’ $579 million worth. They also beat out Nogales the previous calendar year, though Nogales remains the top port for all vegetable imports.
“The reason is simple,” said Dante Galeazzi, head of the Texas International Produce Association. “It’s logistics.” He refers to the ease of reaching East Coast markets through Texas ports for all fresh produce, not just tomatoes. The combined value of all fruit and vegetable imports through Hidalgo first bested Nogales in 2015.
A relatively new superhighway connecting Sinaloa -the epicenter of Mexican tomato growing- and north-eastern Mexico is also behind the trends, says an article on fronterasdesk.org.