Dozens of different types of produce items, led by vegetables, represent crossings at the Mexican border into Nogales, AZ, as well as into the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. While produce haulers are feasting on higher freight rates, produce shippers are hoping freight costs will subside soon.
Last week rates on Mexican produce coming through Nogales were higher for some destinations with driver and equipment shortages reported. For example rates from Nogales to Los Angeles were generally ranging from$1,800 to $2,000 per load, a 6 percent increase from a week earlier, but 50 percent higher than the $1,200 rate at the same time during the past two years.
A few rates exceeded $10,000 from Nogales to New York City last week, but recently have dropped as much as 15 percent.
Tomatoes (all types) are providing the heaviest volume at around 1,150 truck loads a weeks. About 900 truck loads of cucumbers are crossing the border each week with squash and bell peppers also having good volume.
Shipments Through South Texas
In the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas some shippers can’t remember such serious truck shortages for this time of the year. One citrus shipper needed 20 trucks to cover his loads a couple of weeks ago. For a six-week period ending with the first week of January, rates for citrus from the valley to L.A. have soared from $2700 to $5500. Overall, South Texas produce rates are generally up about 20 percent from a year ago.
Produce rates from South Texas to Chicago have been ranging from $4000 to $5000, with the average being around $4500, still quite a strong rate. Produce haulers were grossing around $8800 to New York City.
Mexican tomatoes are providing the heaviest volume with about 1000 truck loads a week, with avocados about one-half this volume. Other leading items range from limes to various types of tomatoes and broccoli.
South Texas grapefruit and oranges are averaging about 350 truck loads each week.
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An early start for West Mexican vegetables crossing the border at Nogales, AZ is a result of warm weather and good growing conditions. It is resulting in earlier-than-normal good supplies of winter produce items.
Good volume has started this week with vegetables ranging from green bell peppers to squash. Mexico’s biggest volume produce item, tomatoes, should start crossing the border at Nogales no later than the third week of December.
Of particular interest to many produce haulers should be the fact that there may be more loadings of Mexican vegetables at Nogales destined for the East Coast this season since weather factors in the East have delayed plantings.
Loading delays in Nogales has been an issue for years, but observers say the situation is improving at the Nogales-Mariposa Port of Entry, although more customs agents are still needed. A load of produce crossing the Mexican border into Arizona used to take six to eight hours, but this has reportedly been cut to two hours or less.
Here are examples of what some shippers of Mexican produce are doing.
Calavo Growers Inc. has shade house-grown tomatoes through mid-May and the Santa Paula, CA based company expects to increase its volume by 10 to 15 percent this season from Mexico.
Del Campo Supreme Inc. in Nogales, Ariz., will start shipping a full line of tomatoes, ranging from vine-ripes, beefsteak, tomatoes-on-the-vine and grape tomatoes, starting in mid-December. The tomatoes are grown in both shade house and green house facilities.
During the 2016-17 season, Mexican growers exported approximately 1.2 billion pounds of round, roma, cherry and grape tomatoes to the U.S.
Some of the shippers for Mexican vegetables through Nogales are:
Big Chuy Distributing Co. Inc, Nogales, plus Ciruli Bros. LLC, Grower Alliance LLC, IPR Fresh, and Thomas Produce Sales Inc. all located in Rio Rico, AZ.
Here are some of the Mexican vegetables and when they will be shipped.
** Eggplant, and squash started in early November
**Beans will be in peak volume all of December
** Roma and beefsteak tomatoes start in mid December
** Hothouse-grown red, yellow and orange bell peppers and shade house-grown green bells are being shipped September through May
**Green bell peppers are shipped from mid November though April
Mexican veggies crossing at Nogales – grossing about $3600 to Chicago; $6500 to New York City.
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Increased loading opportunities for imported produce at Philadelphia are becoming available with a new SeaLand refrigerated sea trade route now operational between the east coast of Mexico and Philadelphia.
Produce haulers should benefit as more fresh produce companies in the Northeast become direct distributors of fresh Mexican fruits and vegetables. The new trade route has been in the works for the past two years spearheaded by Ship Philly First and related Philadelphia trade groups. The first avocados and limes arrived on a SeaLand ship February 4th from Mexico. Ramped up operators are now occurring.
When SeaLand formally announced the service on December. 17th, it indicated the SeaLand Atlantico refrigerated containership route would debark on Tuesdays from the Port of Veracruz. It will then take two days to arrive in Port Altamira, a Mexican port to the north of Veracruz. The ship will leave on Thursdays — the same day as arrival — and then arrive at Philadelphia’s Packer Avenue Marine Terminal on the following Wednesday.
The six-day transit time from Mexico to Philadelphia means trucks will be delivering Mexican produce up to 40 percent of the U.S. population within a day’s drive.
SeaLand has indicated that 100 containers shipped aboard SeaLand Atlantico would save 31,487 gallons of fuel versus what trucks would burn on the same delivery. 600 containers will save 188,821 gallons of fuel.
Mangos are a very important commodity for this service. Truck transportation will continue to be the primary way Mexican produce is hauled with product grown within a certain distance of Nogales, San Diego or South Texas. However, Mexican growers to the south and east can gain a great deal by looking toward the ocean link. Still, trucks will be required, once the boats arrive at port, and boats certainly can’t handle nearly all of the Mexican volume, not matter where it originates.
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Nogales, Ariz. – For the 2014-15 shipping season, a produce association in Nogales has reported a total volume of 5.9 billion pounds of fresh produce crossed the border from Mexico. That is the equivalent of 147,500 truck loads weighing 40,000 pounds each.
Ten commodities made up 5.28 billion pounds of that total, with tomatoes and watermelon leading the way through Nogales in 2014-15. About 1.12 billion pounds of tomatoes came through Nogales last season, up from 1.19 billion pounds in 2013-14. Watermelon imports jumped from 1.03 billion to 1.11 billion pounds.
The next eight commodities, by volume, in 2014-15 were cucumbers, squash, bell peppers, grapes, mangoes, chili peppers, melons and eggplant.
Tomatoes, squash and eggplant were the only top ten commodities to see volume declines from 2013-14 to 2014-15.
More than 50 Mexican-grown fruits and vegetables are imported through Nogales.
By volume, tomatoes remain the number one produce item imported through Nogales, but watermelon imports have risen dramatically in recent years, and in the past season watermelon imports almost caught up to tomatoes, according to The Nogales Produce Import Report 2014-15.
The report offers an analysis and comparison of three seasons of fresh produce’s imports through Nogales in volume as well as value as reported to U.S. Customs.
“It is a tool we have developed to help our members understand the overall picture of fresh produce imports and see what their participation in the industry may be. It also may help them understand the tendencies and detect opportunities to explore,” said Lance Jungmeyer, president of Fresh Produce Association of the Americas in a press release.
FPAA created the report, which also includes data from 2012-13, to help its members understand the overall picture of fresh produce imports, Jungmeyer said in the release.
Mexican produce crossing at Nogales – grossing about $3400 to Chicago.
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Importers of Mexican produce at Nogales are frustrated over the lack of adequate truck supplies, high freight rates and are looking to the railroads to solve some of their problems, according to a recent news story in The Packer, a weekly newspaper for the fresh produce industry.
Struggling to acquire enough refrigerated trucks, complaints were common as the holiday season approached in late 2014. One importer described it as the worst holiday season they ever experienced getting enough trucks. However, some say the equipment shortages extend well beyond the holidays. As a result importers are taking a look at rail service.
Rail is conducive to a number of Mexican vegetables crossing the border at Nogales ranging from had shell squash, cucumbers and other hard grown Mexican items.
The Union Pacific Railroad is currently upgrading 20 miles of rail near the U.S.-Mexican border to make it easier for inspectors to check loads. There also is development of a rail switching yard in Tucson, which would help rail service.
If rail service is fast enough, items such as bell peppers also would be considered. One shipper complained of paying up to $6 per box in some cases to ship product from Nogales to the East Coast this past vegetable season.
Nogales is pretty dead this time of the year with the exception of the Mexican grape season which has just got underway.
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By Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
Nogales, AZ — With the heart of the 2013-14 Mexican produce season coming to a close, the numbers are in, and they show that Nogales is widening its lead over South Texas.
For the season beginning in September of 2013, and through April of 2014, about 37% of the Mexican fresh fruits and vegetables that were consumed in North America crossed through Nogales. This compares to about 28% of total volume for the crossing region in South Texas, comprised of Pharr and Progresso, Texas.
The 2013 crossing report information, gathered from the USDA website, reflects that Nogales enjoyed a dramatic 17% increase over the prior season versus other ports that have remained flat or realized much smaller increases. This is due to several factors, including improvements at the new Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, which are decreasing the amount of time a truck waits in line at the border.
For instance, the revamped Mariposa Port of Entry has doubled the number of commercial crossing lanes. To add to the processing efficiency, as part of the 2014 Omnibus Spending Bill, Nogales will be receiving 120 additional Customs Officers to facilitate trade at the expanded port. The Arizona Department of Transportation has also made significant improvements on the road leading into the U.S. from the port, including widening and adding additional lanes for vehicles to access I-19.
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Mexician produce is causing a flood of volume crossing the U.S. border. In fact it is so much product, combined with lousy winter weather spanning much of the US, it is killing demand (in other words consumers aren’t buying as much and retailers aren’t ordering as much).
A main concern in this situation is some shippers will do just about anything to sell their product before it rots. That can mean rolling loads of produce unsold — in other words on consignment. This too often results produce truckers having to change destinations, facing more drops than originally told, etc.
This makes it especially important you are dealing with good, honest shippers, truck brokers, receivers – to make sure you are getting fairly compensated for any additional mileage, drops, etc.
West Mexico vegetables came on strong in February as delayed volumes of tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers finally started crossing at Nogales, AZ and in South Texas. Shippers, meanwhile, were facing poor demand thanks to a series of winter storms in the Midwest and Northeast.
One example is peak supplies of romas are now hitting Nogales three weeks later than normal.
After a lot of cold weather, replantings, etc, the warm weather in Mexico is resulting in big volumes. However, the crappy wether continues in much of the US.
As spring approaches there also big volume with eggplant, vine ripe tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers. This situation is expected to continue for at least another two months.
Mexican produce crossing the border at Nogales – grossing about $3600 to Chicago.
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After several delays, the Autopista Durango-Mazatlan highway, a 143-mile road from the growing regions of west Mexico to Texas ports of entry, now is expected to open sometime during the first half of 2014.
If you haul produce out of South Texas, this is significant.
It is open, but there are still sections of the road that are not 100 percent complete.
The route’s 1,280-foot-high Baluarte Bridge already has been completed. It is the highest bridge in North America and the highest cable-stayed bridge in the world, according to the website highestbridges.com.
There is no need for trucks to travel up and down the mountain, because they bridges allows the 18 wheelers to go through the mountain.
The highway between Durango and the coastal city of Mazatlan has 61 tunnels and seven bridges that exceed 300 feet in height.
Nearly two-thirds of the produce Texas ships to the rest of the country comes from Mexico.
That only will increase when the new road opens, allowing Mexican growers to easily move product from growing areas in west Mexico to the eastern part of the country in an efficient manner.
Historically it has been impossible to do this because of the mountain ranges. However, the new road system flattens out the trip and making it entirely feasible for big rigs.
The shortcut should allow Mexican shippers and U.S. importers to save $2,000 when they ship a load east of the Rockies through Texas rather than Arizona or California.
Besides importing Mexican product, shippers may bring in Asian products shipped to deep water ports in west Mexico. This would allow importers to avoid Southern California’s Long Beach-Los Angeles harbor area, which is expensive and frustrating.
Completion of the road could boost south Texas to become the business port of entry for produce. Traditionally, Nogales, Ariz., has held the number one spot.
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Tropical storm Manuel hit Western Mexico the week of September 15th, killing dozens and bringing extensive damage to growing areas around Culiacan, a major growing area for tomatoes, squash and many other produce commodities shipped to the USA during the late fall, winter and early spring seasons.
More than 350,000 acres of crops were damaged by the storm, mostly due to heavy rains ranging from around eight inches to 15 inches.
This is expected to hurt loading opportunities for Thanksgiving green beans and other products in the Los Mochis area of northern Sonora. Some loadings that would have started in early November will not be ready until late November. Squash, cucumbers and eggplant were among the crops most heavily affected.
A majority of these Mexician produce items cross the border at Nogales, AZ.
Salinas Valley Vegetable Shipments
Moderate amounts of vegetables continue to be shipped from California’s Salinas Valley, led by head lettuce, romaine lettuce, then celery, broccoli and cauliflower. These items also are being shipped in smaller volumes from the Santa Maria district to the south of Salinas.
Moderate shipments of strawberries also continue from the Watsonsville district, as well as from Santa Maria.
Salinas Valley vegetables and berries – grossing about $7400 to New York City.
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After the interstate highway system was born in the 1950s under the Eisenhower Administration, it allowed the United States to explode in economic power because of its vast coast-to-coast infrastructure in the ensuing decades.
Although it will be on a much smaller scale, we’re going to see something similar with Mexican produce and other goods coming into the United States.
By the end of 2012, a 143-mile cross-continental highway known as the Autopista Durango-Mazatlan is scheduled for completion. It will reduce travel time from West Mexican growing regions to ports in Texas, including McAllen/Pharr. This will provide easier, faster access of Mexican products to the eastern half of the United States.
Meanwhile, over $200 million is being invested in expanding the Mariposa Land Port of Entry at Nogales, AZ. It has a projected completion in 2014.
Another reason I see increasing produce volume to the U.S. from Mexico is because many of the growing operations south of the border are financially backed and/or owned by U.S. produce growing/shipping operations. Cheaper labor costs also factor into this growth.
This should result in more loading opportunites for American produce haulers in the coming years. The unanswered question a this time, is how much of this produce in the future will be delivered by Mexican trucking operations since restrictions on border crossings, and Mexican truckers operating in the U.S., have been loosened.
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