Leading Mexican grape producers, such as Grupo Molina, based in Hermosillo, Sonora, are using shade covers to maximize the production of their proprietary grape varieties. The staggering production costs for Mexican grapes include drip irrigation, targeting individual vines, and hand labor which touches every bunch, even before harvest. The right to drill one water well in the Sonoran desert costs over one million dollars. These rights have to be regularly renewed. Photo courtesy of Fresh Farms, Nogales

Skyrocketing North American fruit and vegetable imports are coming from many sources. Mexican imports are the poster child for the category. Land ports make Mexico an unsurprising source for being the primary source of those imports.

Well beyond this obvious fact, the United States’ southern border is the gateway to a land that is ideal in many ways for providing fresh fruits and vegetables. Providing a solid perspective on such things is Dante Galeazzi.

Galeazzi is a very likable, bright, articulate, and dynamic young man, who is president and CEO of the Texas International Fresh Produce Association. The group uses the acronym TIPA and is headquartered not so many miles from the Rio Grande River in a blonde brick building in Mission, TX.

TIPA’s role is to serve the interests of Texas fruit and vegetable growers. TIPA also represents Texas businesses that handle imported fresh Mexican produce. As to potential threads of conflicting interests therein, Texans live the pro-business savvy favoring the proverbial “rising tide.”

Galeazzi says Mexican imports have increased because of access to a long list of Mexican resources that are unavailable for producers in the U.S.

Mexican Vegetables Imports Set the Table

A November 2021 USDA report indicates that in 2020, Mexico accounted for a healthy 77% of U.S. fresh vegetable import volume. (Canada, a distant number two, represented 11% market share.)

The USDA explains import demand: “U.S. consumers have pushed for greater consistency in supermarket produce and expanded demand for year-round availability of virtually all fresh vegetables. Between 1998 and 2020, the volume of fresh vegetable imports increased nearly 200 percent, and the value of fresh vegetable imports grew to exceed fresh exports by $7.6 billion, more than double the same figure a decade earlier.”

USDA figures for 2019 showed U.S. total imports of agricultural products from Mexico totaled $28 billion, making Mexico the largest such supplier. Leading categories include “other fresh fruit” ($6.9 billion) and fresh vegetables ($6.3 billion).

Wine and beer ($4.0 billion) and snack foods ($2.3 billion) came in third and fourth. Processed fruit and vegetables came in with a hefty value of $1.8 billion.

Tridge.com indicates that Mexican tomato exports to the U.S. were valued at $2.48 billion in 2021.

USDA’s analysis of domestic census and trade data shows Mexican and Canadian producers have dominated the U.S. import market by offering protected culture—or greenhouse—imports as well as organic options, which increased choices for consumers. While conventional and field-grown fresh vegetables still account for most imports,…

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