Greenhouse-grown produce continues to gain ground on field-grown, importers of Mexican greenhouse vegetables say.

JemD Farms, Leamington, Ontario, continues to add to its acreage of high-tech greenhouses in Mexico, president Jim DiMenna said.

JemD added about 14 acres this season, giving it about 250 total acres, DiMenna said.

Greater global demand

Greenhouse vegetable growers in Mexico, Canada and the U.S. all are benefiting from increasing global demand for greenhouse-grown, said Aaron Quon, greenhouse and vegetable category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.

“Greenhouse production in all three countries seems to be growing,” Quon said. “There’s a continued demand at retail for high-quality greenhouse vegetables throughout the year, and the industry is expanding in effort to accommodate it.”

It’s no mystery which method of growing vegetables in Mexico has been on the upswing in recent years, said Alberto Maldonado, general manager of Nogales, Ariz.-based Apache Produce Co.

“The trend the last few years has been to take (acreage) from field-grown,” he said.

Joe Bernardi, president of Nogales-based brokerage Bernardi & Associates Inc., also expects to see the trend continue to shift away from field-grown and toward more protected.

“I think it will continue to grow as people notice the yields they get, and with water more of an issue, it just makes more sense,” he said. “You use less water, less fertilizer, less of everything.”

What could change in 2013-14 and beyond are the types of vegetables grown under cover in Mexico, he said.

Tomato greenhouse acreage could be down, but acreage for other vegetables likely will increase.

Improvements in growing

Cucumbers, for example, are one commodity growers are able to grow much better than they used to under glass, plastic and shade cloth in Mexico, Bernardi said.

“Six or seven years ago, there were lot of problems with soft tips and soft ends,” he said. “Growers have done a lot to cure that and make a better product. They continue to adapt and do a better job of what they’re doing.”

Greenhouse continues to play a vital role even for companies that are heavily invested in field-grown vegetables, such as Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International, marketing director Mike Aiton said.

“We have field-grown peppers every day of the year. Greenhouse is definitely an important part of our mix, as it enables us to supply all customers regardless of their product preference,” Aiton said.

Aiton describes Prime Time’s greenhouse growth as “slow and steady” over the past five years.

High costs promise more of the same in the future

“We expect it to continue to grow,” he said. “However, there are always capital constraints to this growth due to significant start-up costs.”