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Pacific Tomato bumping up grape tomato production in Mexico

Pacific Tomato Growers is expecting to increase its grape tomato production in Mexico by 10-15 percent this year while keeping its round and Roma production at about the same level as last year.

“Our ‘Sun Coast’ grape tomato program will be strong this year in Mexico,” said Jon Esformes, operating partner for the Palmetto, FL-based company, which has branch offices in Melfa, VA, and St. Helena Island, SC, in addition to its Nogales, AZ, office. “We’ve seen a very positive response to the consistent quality we have produced on our ‘Sun Coast’ grape tomatoes, and we are expanding our acreage by 10-15 percent this year.”

Regarding the increase in grape tomato production, Esformes said that as a leader in the tomato industry and the grape tomato category, Pacific Tomato has developed the ability to harvest and pack in a way that is congruent with its expectations on the domestic side of the business. “Our planting schedule is entirely determined based on what we feel we can harvest and pack in a controlled manner.”

Pacific-Tomato-1At the Pacific Tomato Growers sales office in Nogales, AZ, are Bobby Maher, Rosa Samaniego, Laura Narkaus, Pete Sheffield and Tony Muñoz. (Photo by John Groh)In addition to expanding its acreage, Pacific Tomato recently made a significant investment in its packing facilities in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, in order to increase its efficiency and extend the range of its packaging options for customers, according to Esformes.

“We continue to expand our operation, and we just spent between $700,000 and $800,000 to finish our construction project in Los Mochis, which will enable us to pack a number of different proprietary labels for our customers all at the same time on high-speed fillers,” he said. “This essentially matches the expansion in technology that we have done in the United States, so that we have mirror facilities in the U.S. and Mexico.”

When The Produce News spoke with Esformes on Nov. 29, he said grape tomato harvest in Sinaloa had just begun that day and would continue through April.

Hurricane Manuel, which struck Sinaloa in September, caused some damage to crops in that region, but the damage was minimal for Pacific Tomato, said Esformes.

“Based on what we are seeing now, we’ll probably be a little late in Sinaloa and sizing might be off slightly at the beginning,” he said. “Normally we are going pretty strong by about December 15, but it will turn around quickly and we expect to be in full production with good sizing by January 1.

“But we are fortunate,” he continued. “It could have been a lot worse. There was little impact in Los Mochis from the weather, so there should be no problems there.”

Esformes said Pacific Tomato is currently harvesting Romas in La Paz and Baja Sur, and “quality is excellent. We expect to begin harvesting round and Roma tomatoes in Culiacan within the new few weeks, and it should be about the same volume as last year.”

Total production out of Mexico is expected to be in the range of 3.5 million to 3.8 million packages, he said. Tomatoes cross into the United States through Nogales and McAllen, TX.

Pacific Tomato added a new salesman, Bobby Maher, at its Nogales office. “He has a lot of experience working in Florida, Nogales and California,” said Esformes. “He was a perfect fit for us. He started in July, and we are grateful to have him on board down in Nogales.”

Overall, Esformes said “it’s really kind of steady-as-she-goes in Mexico. We are in it for the long haul, so we look for steady increases and we occasionally tinker with our planting schedule. We’re a 12-month operation, so we are always excited about the beginning of any new season. And with Sinaloa, it is especially exciting because it represents the major tomato crop that is available for the domestic market from January 1 until the spring starts.”