Border Foods Crop Report – Early July 2013
The good news is that the drought has abated and we are seeing replenishment of the water resources across the country. A very late winter delayed planting and we have a long way to go before the fall crops can be considered a certainty. In New Mexico, we are seeing near ideal growing conditions with adequate moisture supported by optimal ambient humidity and excellent temperature patterns for the crop.
There are two methods of starting the chile crop, transplants and direct seeding. Our transplants went in the ground in the last half of February and early March. These early plants are now about 2 ½ feet tall with pods about the size of acorns. A count of the pods leaves mild encouragement that the potential exists for excellent yields this year. The early transplants will be ready for harvesting around the end of July. We began planting our direct seeded chile in March, and then staggered the planting so that fields mature at different times affording a steady inflow to the plant. The most recently planted crop is about 8” tall currently and will not be ready until mid-September. Most plants will be picked twice during our season. We anticipate a gentle ramp up of our pack season the week of July 22nd. We will continue to gradually ramp up in early August and run at full rates from mid August to mid September with a gradual slow down to the pack ending in late October.
With our 2010 and 2011 crops of exceptional quality, we were convinced that “exceptional” defined the new “normal.” Last year’s crop returned to the historic trend line and yielded a traditional crop in terms of size and quality. An early fall had us exiting the pack season earlier than planned and we are extremely excited to be on the verge of replenishing our stocks and building a more comfortable inventory for the coming year.
In the last crop report we noted the following “In Mid-January this area had several consecutive nights when the temperature dipped into the low 20’s. A significant portion of the crop was either lost or damaged, and supplies of fresh jalapeños are extremely limited today.” As the season progressed, the cold snap continued north further damaging the crops. In many cases, the agricultural response to the freeze was to attempt to stimulate the plants back to life with copious amounts of water, fertilizer and chemicals. As the crop recovered, FDA officials increased their vigilance on the chemistry of jalapenos being imported from Mexico and ultimately deemed significant quantities of jalapenos processed in Mexico as unsuitable for import to the USA. This prompted a frenzy of activity for limited amounts of peppers ripening in Mexico. As this report is being written, the market has stabilized slightly. We feel that the availability of processed jalapeños suitable for import to the US is at an all time low, and that competition for fresh jalapeños will be intense and pricing firm until this pent up demand is satisfied.
As Dorothy lamented in the Wizard of Oz: “There is no place like home,” we feel the same way about sourcing crops. We are excited to see the crop grown in proximity to our plant maturing nicely. We have an excellent distribution on maturity, the incidence of curly top virus is minimal, and we look forward to starting our local harvest in late July and continuing into Mid October.
Supplies of jalapeños remain extremely limited. The shortage probably has prompted users of jalapeños to question their purchasing strategies. For those contemplating changes in their strategies, we are a domestic processor with a strong agricultural foundation, and SQF certification that would be delighted to be your pepper supplier.
For those not “in the know” a red jalapeño is a ripe green jalapeño. With demand outstripping supply for green jalapeños over the past several months, green jalapeños have not lasted long enough to turn red. In many cases, existing supplies were exhausted weeks ago making red jalapeños extremely challenging to source. As supply and demand become more balanced, we are hopeful that red jalapeños will become available again in the coming months. Our expectations are that red jalapenos will remain difficult to source into late 2013 or early 2014.
Tomatillos were also caught in the Mexican freeze of this winter. Supplies have been extremely tight to non- existent. Our inventories are very low (we never missed a shipment), for the next two months, we have located a steady supply to replenish our usage. As the chile season wanes, we will start packing tomatillos to provide our customers with a steady source for their future needs. Prices have firmed as demand outstripped supply for several months and supplies continue to remain limited.
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