Organic fresh produce is playing an increasingly important role for Mexican fruit and vegetable exporters, thanks to high demand in export markets, according to exhibitors at the recent Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Mexico event held in León, Mexico.

Rising demand for organic fresh fruits and vegetables in markets such as the US and Germany, as well as a smaller domestic market, is convincing more of the country’s leading producers-exporters to invest in new, dedicated production sites for organic produce.

Speaking at the event, which took place in León’s Poliforum conference center from May 24-25, Adrián Ortega from leading producer Mr. Lucky revealed the company was investing in new greenhouse-based organic mini pepper production following success with organic tomatoes.

“We have been increasing production of certain products where there is a demand – one case is organic tomatoes, and we are also in the process of developing greenhouses for organic peppers,” he said. “Demand for organic products in the US and Canada is slightly higher than in Mexico, although the organic market is also growing here.”

At the current time, Mr. Lucky produces five varieties of organic, greenhouse-grown tomatoes – beefsteak, cherry, grape, heirloom, and on-the-vine – as well as organic lettuce, celery, garlic, kale, chard, and radicchio.

Based in the state of Michoacán, Avocados Esquivel is an export-focused avocado producer that currently dedicates 20 percent of its total annual output to organic production; a total which the company expects to see growing. “There is high demand for organic avocados now, principally in the US, and our organic production is increasing,” said Cecilia Morales from the company.

Among the leading exporters present at the event was Carlos Buenrostro, owner, and CEO of Guanajuato-based Agricola Amigo, who revealed that the firm is planning to expand its organic produce range because of sales growth in the category. Agricola Amigo’s current range includes organic lettuce, celery, radicchio, asparagus, kale, garlic, beetroot, broccoli and pumpkin, and will soon be accompanied by organic blackberries, raspberries, and cranberries.

“We currently do about 80 percent conventional and 20 percent organic. Demand is increasing because of consumers looking for healthier fruits and vegetables,” said Buenrostro.

Pacific, expanding its range

Pacific Organic Produce, the long-established San Francisco-based organic fresh fruit and juice marketer, is looking to expand into fresh organic vegetables, with the focus very much on delivering consistently high-quality products, according to company founder Greg Holzman.

Speaking at the recent PMA Mexico event in León, Guanajuato, Holzman revealed that Pacific was investing considerable resources to locate and employ sales staff that understood the organic vegetable business. “We’ve been fruit guys, but we’re expanding now to become "vegetable people,” he said. “We’ve been spending time, money and energy in accumulating a sales force that understands that category. The vegetable segment is all about consistency of supply, from the field to the end consumer.”

As a company, and through its Purity brand, Pacific has been marketing organic produce and juice in the US for the past 23 years, and is the country’s largest marketer of organic mangos, although it also sells large volumes of avocados, cranberries, potatoes, table grapes, cherries and deciduous fruit.

“We probably sell three-four times more organic mango than anyone else in that business. Probably that’s where we excel,” said Holzman. “We are also very active in certain markets, like off-season apples and pears, so we have a good piece of Chile, Argentina, and New Zealand business.”

Primarily an importer – Holzman estimates that 65% of Pacific’s products are sourced from outside the US – the company works with “hundreds of growers” principally in Mexico, as well as Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, and Peru. Within the US, the company sells cherries from California and Washington State, among other products.

Citrus is also a major product for Pacific and Holzman estimates that the firm imports around 700 truckloads of early Valencia oranges from Mexico a week during a season that lasts from early January through to late May.