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Malena expands in eggplant, pickles and peppers, adds hard squash, extends season

Malena Produce Inc. in Nogales, AZ, will have increases in several commodities for the coming winter season and will be adding a few new ones, according to Vice President Gonzalo Avila.

Some of the product expansions will extend the company's shipping season as well.

Gonzalo-AvilaGonzalo AvilaAccording to a press release from Malena dated Nov. 15, Malena is "no longer just a 'winter' supplier" but "is communicating to retailers its expanded operations and extended season" running now from October through June.

The release quotes Mr. Avila as saying, "Most receivers know us for our eggplant, but we also offer a full array of produce on close to a year-round basis."

As an example, Mr. Avila cited [Malena's] "colored pepper program which has grown more than 20 percent in one year," according to the release.

Mr. Avila told The Produce News Nov. 16 that in eggplant, there will be "a little bit more" production out of shadehouses and "a little less coming out of the open field," but that overall, he expected volume to be "slightly up."

In green bell peppers, "we have open-field [production] in Hermosillo" in the state of Sonora, Mexico, and also in Culiacan in the state of Sinaloa. In addition, this year, for the first time, "we are going to have green bell peppers coming out of shadehouses as well in Culiacan," Mr. Avila said.

In its 11-pound colored bell peppers, "we have increased that program about 20 percent." Those were scheduled to start in late November, and "they will run through around mid-May or so," he said.

Also in the bell pepper category, "we are continuing with our red elongated peppers coming out of Hermosillo to kick off the season," he said. "Then we move to our Culiacan program." Hermosillo is a combination of open-field and shadehouse on the elongated red peppers, but Culiacan is all shadehouses.

In the chili peppers category, "we have a small chili pepper deal with five different varieties of peppers going," Mr. Avila said. Those are Jalapeño, Serrano, Anaheim, Caribe and Poblano. The Poblano variety is the one that accounts for the largest volume for Malena.

Last year, "we had [just] Poblano and Jalapeño," he said. This year, that has been expanded to five varieties.

In the company's fresh pickle program from Culiacan, "we have increased that for this year," Mr. Avila said. On Persian pickles also, "or what we call mini-cucumbers, we have increased that program" as well. "We used to have them only out of Hermosillo, and now we are going to have some coming out of Sinaloa, which will allow us to extend our season."

In the past, the Persians would start in October and run into January or maybe February, depending on weather. "Now, with the Sinaloa production, we can go all the way to the end of March. All that is shadehouse-grown," he said.

New this year for Malena will be some hard shell squash. "We are handling a little bit of Acorn and Spaghetti squash this year -- small amounts," Mr. Avila said. "We didn't have that last year."

In soft squash, "I think we are going to be about the same," he said. Currently, "our program is coming out of Sonora, the Hermosillo area, on Italian and yellow squash." For the winter months, it will shift to southern Sonora, specifically the Obregon area, and northern Sinaloa, specifically the Guasave area, and will consist of Italian, yellow and gray squash. "In the spring, we come back to Hermosillo again with Italian and yellow."

In cucumbers also, the program is similar to last year. "We are up and running, and we should have those all the way through May," with production shifting from Hermosillo and Obregon down to Guasave and Culiacan, "then back up to Hermosillo."

Malena will be crossing some product again through McAllen, TX, during the winter. "Sales will be handled out of Nogales," Mr. Avila said. "We are going to start that up, there, in a couple of weeks, with product available in McAllen during the wintertime.

Sergio Manriquez, who was previously sales coordinator at Malena and was also doing some sales is now full-time on sales, Mr. Avila said. Danny Stoller continues as sales manager.

Rod Everett, who was previously on sales, has retired for health reasons, he said. "He had a nice long successful career in the produce industry."