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Saul Gonzalez joins Grower Alliance on sales, increases volume

NOGALES, AZ — So far this season, the biggest news for Grower Alliance LLC, here, is the addition of a new salesman, said Jorge Quintero Jr., sales manager, in an interview with The Produce News Nov. 9. New on sales is Saul Gonzales, who was previously at Malena Produce in Nogales. “He brings a lot of experience” and “has worked with a lot of the items that we are increasing our acreage with,” he said.

Also on sales is Mr. Quintero’s father, Director of Marketing Jorge Quintero Sr., and Frank Hernandez, who is now in his second season.

More big news for the company is that the building in which its offices and warehouse facilities are located is now company owned. “This is our second season in this building,” Mr. Quintero said. “We were leasing it” but have now purchased it and have owned it since July.

Jorge Quintero Jr. and Saul Gonzalez of Grower Alliance LLC.

The company has made several improvements to the 37,000-square-foot warehouse, including putting racking in “one of the bigger rooms where we do most of the honeydews and watermelons,” he said. That room now can hold about 36 to 39 loads of product.

Grower Alliance also is offering office rental and in-and-out services to other produce companies and currently has three tenants in the facility: Arizona Sky Produce, A&E Specialty Marketing LLC, and Fresh Touch Distributing Inc.

Grower Alliance continues with the same basic items as in the past, those being squash, cucumbers, honeydews, watermelons, mini-melons, green beans, hot peppers, pickles, eggplant, Romas and Bell peppers.

“We do have Roma tomatoes right now” that are coming up through McAllen, TX, he said. “We have done that in the past, but this season we are trying to get a little more following out there.” The Romas are being greenhouse grown in the state of Michoacàn, Mexico. “It is a beautiful operation,” he said. “They do a really good job.”

Because of competition with the national market in Mexico, the growers “will play the market, and if it makes sense to bring them up here, we will,” he said. They started in June and continue through most of November.” It is not a big program,” but it provides some continuity.

Following the end of the Michoacàn Roma deal, there will then be a gap of about two weeks before the company’s Roma program starts in Obregon in December. That deal will continue into June, when the Michoacàn program will begin again.

The company is “not introducing any new items this season so far,” he said.

“What we are concentrating on this season” is increasing volume in selected items, Mr. Quintero said. Those items are eggplant, cucumbers and Euro cucumbers. “We are bringing them up to the level of volume” that the company already has with other items, such as squash, beans and melons.

The increased production in eggplant, cucumbers and Euro cucumbers will be coming out of Culiacan, Sinaloa. “All of our other items” will start in Caborca and then Hermosillo in the state of Sonora, with “a little bit in Obregon,” he said. Production will then move “down to Guasave, Los Mochis and Culiacan, then back up in the spring.”

Grower Alliance works with around 12 to 14 different growers in Mexico. “We don’t really want to increase too many more,” Mr. Quintero said. “They are all strategically [located] so we can have as much consistency in our product line as possible.” Future growth will most likely come with the same growers. That is not to say that the company will not consider bringing in other growers, but they must fit in the overall program.

For the past three seasons, Grower Alliance has “managed to grow with the growers we already have” to fill in what was missing in the product line, he said.

As with many growers in Mexico who grow products for the U.S. market, every year the Grower Alliance growers are increasing the amount of product grown in protective structures. For Grower Alliance, the only real greenhouses are the ones in Michoacàn. But in northern Mexico, more is grown in shadehouses every year, he said. All of the Euro cucumbers are grown under protective structures as are increasing amounts of regular cucumbers, eggplant and some other items.