The demand for produce grown in protected environments is growing, according to growers and shippers.

Supplies are also expected to be up in volume, partly because of increased plantings.

“We are continuing to see an expansion of more greenhouses pushing further south, with more product coming into use for longer durations,” said Chris Ciruli, chief operating officer of Ciruli Bros. LLC, Rio Rico, Ariz.

Peppers in particular may have higher volumes this year, said Jim Cathey, sales manager for Del Campo Supreme Inc., Nogales, Ariz.

“Last year was a very good season for greenhouse peppers, so, naturally, a few more went in,” he said.

Matt Mandel, vice president of sales and marketing at SunFed, Rio Rico, said SunFed increased hothouse bell pepper plantings in the central part of Mexico.

The increase will give the company a bit of a jump in production this year, he said.

Other items that could see an increase are specialty cucumbers and specialty tomatoes, according to Cathey.

Others agree that yields should be good, noting the optimal weather so far this season.

“Things have been very favorable — notably the good weather, which we anticipate will translate to higher yields and solid supply,” said Aaron Quon, greenhouse and vegetable category director for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia.

“We anticipate that volumes will be up on virtually all items from Mexico, provided that Mother Nature is kind to us,” Quon said in an e-mail.

Quon said the reason these products are gaining in popularity is because consumers want the kind of products that are grown in protected settings, and many prefer the color, shape, appearance and eating quality that greenhouse conditions can produce.

For those reasons, along with the ability to produce year-round, more types of vegetables are being moved to protected areas.

“We’re seeing more and more items grown inside — eggplant, summer squash, beans, just about anything you can think of now — and for the reasons that tomatoes and peppers first went in,” said marketing director Mike Aiton, Prime Time International, Coachella, Calif.

“You can extend the growing season and increase productivity, plus control damage from pests and disease, so we’re seeing everything gown more inside, particularly in Mexico,” he said.