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Mexico earthquake has limited effect on agriculture industry

by Tim Linden | April 06, 2010
The powerful Easter Sunday earthquake that rattled homes and buildings in both Mexico and California did do some structural damage -- mostly in Mexicali, Mexico -- but apparently had very limited impact on the fresh produce industry.

The 7.2-magnitude quake was centered about 30 miles south of the border in the Mexicali Valley of Baja California.

Ayron Moiola, executive director of the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association, based in El Centro, CA, said that the earthquake did result in some minor office damage and hours of cleanup for many of her members, "but I have not heard of any product being lost."

She told The Produce News April 7 that many growers based in the Imperial Valley do have acreage and packingsheds in the Mexicali Valley, but April typically marks the end of the winter growing season, "so I do not think there was any extensive crop damage," she said. "I know some growers were going down [to their operations] yesterday or today to assess the situation, but again I have not heard of any major damage."

One agricultural official from Baja California was quoted in a local newspaper saying that the biggest potential damage was to the winter wheat crop, which apparently makes up about half of the 150,000 irrigated acres in the Mexicali Valley. The concern was that damaged water canals could prevent normal irrigation and that an extended delay could hurt the crop. He expressed optimism, however, that the canals would be operational within the 10-day time frame needed to avert any crop losses due to lack of water.

Elizabeth Valenzuela, a buyer for Cervantes Distributors Inc., located in Calexico, directly across the border from Mexicali, said that Calexico survived the earthquake fairly well, but "there was a lot of damage in Mexicali. One of the retail outlets we sell to had to close their doors for several days while they cleaned up, but we haven't seen much disruption in our business."

She also said that one of the border-crossing stations remained closed for a couple of days, which limited the normal amount of commerce that typically occurs between Calexico and Mexicali, but by April 7 things appeared to have returned to normal.