SunFed’s summer program will build Texas distribution

RIO RICO, AZ— Currently, 80 percent of the Mexican produce imported by SunFed enters the U.S. through Nogales. The remaining 20 percent is crossing the border in south Texas for distribution from a SunFed facility in Edinberg.

“However, tomatoes are opposite,” according to Matt Mandel, COO of SunFed, “with 80 percent running through Texas.”

SunFed continues to develop a summertime program, and tomatoes are key to that program, according to Craig Slate, president of the firm.

SunFed-Matt-CraigMatt Mandel and Craig SlateThere is also a focus on organic cucumbers, mini-cukes and squash grown year-round in central Mexico and shipped through Texas during the summer months.

SunFed’s springtime tomato production comes from southern Sonora.

Last year SunFed entered the transportation business. The company now owns three trucks. With trucks available, “we control the whole process,” he said. Often in trucking “price is not the issue but availability.”

West Mexican vegetables, initially expected for the early spring deal in late February, “will either be late or never come to fruition,” Mandel said Feb. 5.

The night of Feb. 4 saw freezing temperatures in key Sonoran growing districts. He indicated that more freezing was forecast for the night of Feb. 5.

These developments are the latest setback from a siege by Mother Nature.

Mandel indicated that growers in La Costa, which is near Sonora’s Pacific coast west of Hermosillo, reported freezing on the night of Feb. 4. Other reports indicated 32-degree temperatures in Hermosillo. Guaymas and Obregon also had temperatures that would freeze crops.

The extent of that damage, atop whatever was coming from a frosty forecast, would be unknown for several days, Mandel said.

He noted that variations in topography across the region — and even between adjacent farms — would likely bring varied levels of damage, depending on temperatures in a very specific field.

Visiting Nogales, The Produce News on Jan. 22 called upon Mandel and Slate to discuss what was already a very difficult season.

At that time, they hoped for warmer weather and to see a turn toward normalization by Feb. 17.

The Feb. 5 follow-up call to Mandel indicated that wouldn’t be happening.

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