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Growing areas in Mexico hit hard by two nights of freezing temperatures

by Rand Green | February 03, 2011
Growers in the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Sonora were assessing damage to assorted crops on the morning of Friday, Feb. 4, following two nights of freezing temperatures, as their distributors in Nogales, AZ, awaited news of the extent of the damage.

"Everything is changing. I don't know what to tell you. I still won't know what to tell you 'til Monday, but we got hit severely hard," Jerry Havel, director of sales and marketing at Fresh Farms in Nogales, said early morning Friday, Feb. 4.

Guaymas, Obregon and Hermosillo in the state of Sonora were "completely frozen," he said. "It is going to take ’til Monday until everybody figures it out, but the grapes in Hermosillo were all pushing out," meaning that their new spring growth was beginning to emerge from the buds and that anything at that stage of growth "is now frozen, so it is bad news. It is going to affect a lot of things for the spring."

Initial reports are that not only Sonora but also Sinaloa "got severely damaged by this cold," he said. It will affect both crops currently being harvested and others that have been planted for the spring harvest.

In Guaymas, temperatures were below freezing "for at least an hour" the early morning of Thursday, Feb. 3, Mr. Havel said. He had not yet heard how cold it got there Thursday night and Friday morning. But in Obregon, where temperatures were down to 28 degrees for a couple of hours the night before, a grower had just sent him an e-mail saying that things were "worse than ever" on Friday morning.

"I also heard that Hermosillo was below freezing for eight hours not last night but the night before, and I don't yet have a report from last night, which was supposed to be worse," he said.

Mr. Havel noted that it was 13 degrees in Nogales when he got out of his car at the office Friday morning and that even Tucson, AZ, had been "in the teens the last two nights."

"You've got to look at Hermosillo, Obregon, Los Moches, Guasave," for potential freeze damage, Javier (J.J.) Badillo, who heads the Nogales office for Calavo Growers Inc., said late Thursday afternoon as the company's growers in Mexico were facing a second cold night. "Monday or Tuesday we'll have all the information" on the extent of the damage, he said.

Even in central Mexico, there were concerns for crops grown in higher elevations, and avocados in Michoacán could be affected, Mr. Badillo said.

Chris Ciruli, chief operating officer for Ciruli Bros. LLC in Nogales, was watching conditions in Tepic, Nayarit, when The Produce News talked to him Feb. 2. Mango trees at higher elevations there were already in bloom, "and we are going to be faced with a run of about two or three cold nights right now" with temperatures reaching down at least to the mid-30s," he said. "We are going to keep an eye on [that area] over the next 48 to 72 hours."

The Hermosillo area in Sonora was also "going through some cold weather" which "could affect some of our spring promotions on soft squash -- yellow squash, Italian squash, gray squash -- as well as honeydews, because that Hermosillo deal is going to get so cold," he said. "We hope that we come out of these next two days in good shape."

"We are experiencing some very, very cold weather … in northern Mexico which could affect the veg and some of the late Roma deals that are in the ground right now," Joe Bernardi, president of Bernardi & Associates Inc. in Nogales, said Feb. 2. "We've got to keep an eye on that. It is very cold all the way down to Culiacan." In Culiacan it was not expected to freeze but just to slow production, he said. "But in northern areas like Hermosillo and even Obregon, we could see some damage and some bloom drop from the cold that we are going to experience over the next couple of days."

There will be some immediate effect in light supplies "through this weekend and probably the first part of next week," he said. "But I think the bigger impact will be lighter supplies in late April and May on the spring veg and late Roma deals."

Jorge Quintero Sr., marketing director for Grower Alliance in Nogales, said Feb. 3, "Considering there was a little bit of cold weather" in Hermosillo, Guaymas and Obregon, there was uncertainty whether the company's volume projections for spring crops "are going to be true." It had been cold the night prior, and "I hear tonight it is going to be really cold," he said. "We've just got to wait until everything settles and we see what kind of damage the cold weather costs."