Known for its peppers, Prime Time International also has an expanding tomato program that will bring the company’s first Mexico-grown romas to the U.S. this winter.

Production of roma, grape and round vine-ripened tomatoes began about Nov. 1. They are grown in Baja California, starting at Vizcaino and Ciudad Constitucion and then moving down to La Paz. The fruit crosses at San Diego.

“The biggest thing that is becoming more prominent for us is our tomato program,” said Mike Aiton, director of marketing at Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International.

“We’ve got excellent quality, and we’ve been pestered by our regular customers to get into the roma business, so we have.”

That kind of demand won out over any concerns about the suspension agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, the fate of which is to be resolved sometime between November and April.

Aiton heard stories of some growers planting fewer tomatoes, turning to alternative crops in case trade barriers arise.

“We’re hopeful and optimistic that some settlement can be reached so significant penalties are not placed on Mexican growers,” he said. “Penalties would be a big thing for the industry and for consumers.”


Bells and mini sweets

On bell peppers, Prime Time has product crossing at San Diego and Nogales, Ariz. There are field-grown red, green and yellow peppers along with red, yellow and orange from protected agriculture. On the mainland, Prime Time has a new shade house in Culiacan.

“From protective environments, we’re able to put together combinations of colors on the blocky types,” Aiton said. “That’s growing, and we’re planning to package more multicolored peppers this year.”

“We’ve built a nice following on our bagged peppers,” he said. “All of our peppers are packed in packinghouses, which is a good opportunity to sort, size and grade.”

The big boost this year, though, will be in mini sweet colored peppers. Prime Time offers those in 1- and 2-pound bags and in bulk.

“Mini sweet peppers are a fast growing item in customer demand and acceptance,” Aiton said. “We responded accordingly and increased our production this year in Mexico by about 35% over last year.”

The minis started off in California — first Oxnard, then Coachella — before an expected mid-December start in Baja and Culiacan. The increase will come from existing acreage pressed into mini sweet pepper production.