As the Mexico deal winds down, consumers and retailers alike will look to the California desert for its fresh crop of bell peppers, said Mike Aiton, director of marketing for Prime Time International, Coachella, Calif.

The desert enjoyed great growing conditions this winter and early spring, he said, and he predicted in early April that the pepper deal would get started five or six days earlier than usual.

Prime Time International will have a “fast-and-furious” deal, mostly in May and June, before the company transitions to the San Joaquin Valley in July, Aiton said.

In response to customer requests for greenhouse-grown product, the company opened an enclosed structure in nearby Mecca, where it is growing red, yellow and orange blocky bell peppers, he said.

The firm also offers field-grown bell peppers.

“Things are tracking favorably” for the bell pepper crop, which should be larger than last year’s, he said. He added that the long-term weather outlook is favorable.

Keber Distributing Inc., Thermal, Calif., expected to start its green bell pepper deal the last week of April, said partner Dick Keber.

“Quality should be fine,” he said. “We’ve had good growing conditions.”

The company will ship peppers until the price goes below what it costs to produce them, Keber said. That typically happens around the second week of June.

Peter Rabbit Farms in Coachella started shipping high-quality green bell peppers in mid-April, said John Burton, general manager of sales and cooler.

Burton attributed the slightly earlier-than-usual start to a mild spring with sunny days and warm nights, which he said was perfect growing weather.

The company’s volume should be similar to last year’s, he said.

“Certain fields work well for us,” Burton said. “They’re protected from the weather and consistent every year.”

Peter Rabbit Farms should start picking red bell peppers in late April or the first week of May, and yellow peppers should follow, also during the first week of May.

Assuming the weather holds, the company will have green peppers until mid-June and red ones as late as the Fourth of July.

Pasha Marketing LLC, Mecca, Calif., started its green bell peppers on schedule April 9, said Franz De Klotz, vice president of marketing,

The company’s field department anticipates a normal-size crop with average yields.

Plants looked good and were able to provide adequate foliage to provide shade for the fruit itself as temperatures start to rise, he said.

The company expected to start its red bell peppers in late April.

The company sells red peppers in 15- and 25-pound packages and green ones in 25-pound units.

The company place-packs its large and extra-large peppers, face-packs the medium sized-ones and volume-fills boxes of choice grade, De Klotz said.