“Growth is the word that would describe recent developments in Mexican horticulture best,” says Juan Labastida with Enza Zaden Mexico, adding that consumer demand has been the biggest boost for the growth of the sector. Recently, the breeding company announced a collaboration with Mexican seed distributor Ahern Seeds, which now is the sole vendor of the Enza Zaden cucumber assortment. “Together we can be close to growers in every region and develop products that answer to the markets’ demand.”
Working hand in hand with the Mexican growers.
Healthier food choices
“There´s no doubt consumers are asking for healthier food choices where fruits and vegetables play a significant role. With over 115 million people living in Mexico and US and Canada as main export markets, it´s quite a daring challenge, so technology comes in hand to provide new solution and make fresh produce better available,” Juan says when asked what the most important booster is for the growth of the Mexican greenhouse industry. “New greenhouse and shadehouse are being built year round and or being modernized with the latest technologies to make food production available in a safe, reliable, eco friendly and sustainable way.”
Juan is the Marketing Specialist for Enza Zaden Mexico and has seen the market develop. “Mexico´s market is mostly about slicer types. They are grown nationwide and year round, most of them under protected agriculture methods with nethouses as the preferred technology. There are even some open field areas still in operation in central and south regions of our country,” he says. The slicer cucumber acreage has been steady over the past three years, meaning that some growers entered and others exited the market but final acreage remained barely the same. “Cucumbers are also seen as a “temp crop”: since the cycle is shorter than tomatoes or peppers, they can be grown in between seasons, for example when there´s an important export contract to fulfill. It doesn’t happen that often, but it happens.”
“USA has a large demand for slicer types also (volume wise they are very high) but it seems to be slowly shifting to Long European Types (LET cucumbers) and snacking. This is mostly driven by organic consumers but also in the conventional segments,” he continues. “As per LET and Snacking we have seen an important increase in acreage in central Mexico organic segment due to contracts for export markets USA and Canada. International marketers are growing in Mexico because of the climate conditions (year round availability) and the overall growth expertise from business partners.”
Adrian Delgado, showing our Coatzin slicer variety in Puebla, Mexico.
Growing market, happy growers?
Despite the growing market and the high yields with the improved greenhouses, cucumber growing is not without its risks. Labour shortage is an issue as it is in many countries. Then, since most ag inputs are imported into Mexico, the currency fluctuations can harm growers. “It has been rather stable, but still is a challenge for some, resulting in higher operating costs.”
“Of course there’s pests and diseases, which are always present in any crop and cucumbers are not the exception,” says Juan. “Our R&D colleagues are daily working in bringing new varieties to the market that can handle better the crop diseases present in the field and working towards future resistant varieties.”
“We are also working in improving shelf life for the fruits as they are exposed to long transit routes from harvest point to destination and want to assist growers and traders alike in reaching optimal quality for the end consumer.”
Also the availability of organic seed is named as a challenge by growers. “The global rise of demand for them is also challenging for us,” Juan confirms. “We are directly involved by making extra efforts to produce and have available 100 % certified organic seed for the growers in the needed dates and sufficient amount.”
Enza Zaden´s RD and Commercial team evaluating BAT cucumbers at a grower´s greenhouse.
The team with Enza Zaden and their organic subsidiary Vitalis hears the growers, traders and other stakeholders in the industry on these developments. The strengthened collaboration with Ahern Seeds, one of the leading seed distributors in the country, will help further. “We have been business partners for over 20 years. Ahern´s commercial and trial support team makes great efforts to be close to growers in every region, a very hard and demanding job!” says Juan. “Together, we are working close to them to present options to fill their needs.”
Especially now that COVID has hit trade shows and other industry exhibitions and limited access to the greenhouses / growers facilities as it used to be. “We are still in very close contact with growers but visiting is becoming more “virtual”,” Juan continues. “Together with Ahern we can be close to growers anywhere. We are also working in the development of new products together, so before a new variety is introduced, we collaborate with them to “test the waters” for both growers and produce traders alike as to make sure we have covered the agronomic traits needed and also getting close to consumer´s preferences.”
“We will keep working towards enhancing collaboration to best support growers and produce traders alike by having close and direct contact with them," Juan concludes. "We will keep presenting new and improved varieties that are best fitted for local and regional crop management that will result in better yields, higher fruit quality and overall business growth for participants.”