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Mexican protected agriculture production expanding

The Mexican acreage of tomatoes in protected agriculture has grown rapidly over the last couple of years up to 15,198 hectares in MY 2016/17. The acreage is still growing, but growth has slowed down to less than 1,000 hectares per year. This statement is made in a recent USDA report on the Mexican tomato market.

The tomato production for the marketing year 2018/19 is estimated at 3.4 million tons, similar to the previous marketing year. Mexican producers continue to move from open field production to protected agriculture technologies, resulting in higher yields.

Protected agriculture is also growing as producers increasingly become aware of the benefits in production, quality, pest control, and reduced risk exposure to climate change. This transition is embraced by the Government of Mexico, which sees the benefits of introducing this production method to rural areas as a form of social development. The main horticultural products produced under this technology are tomato (70 percent), bell pepper (16 percent), cucumber (10 percent), and the rest are products like flowers, chili peppers, berries, and papaya.

Baja greenhouse at Ensenada

Sinaloa (a traditional winter-cycle tomato producing state) there are about 14,000 Ha devoted to tomatoes, of which approximately 3,800 Ha are under protected production. Due to strong returns, production has trended towards increased use of shade-houses, mainly for products destined for the export market. Growers, however, indicate that combining open field and shade-house production has been useful for managing and marketing their product. Sources point out that less than ideal levels of agricultural sophistication (i.e., lack of established marketing channels, insufficient capital, and inability to cope with weather events), means that sometimes growers abandon protected facilities.

Yields vary depending on production conditions and inputs. Average yields for MY 2016/17 are expected to be 69 MT/Ha (combined average for open field and protected agriculture). Although yields for MY 2017/18 were expected to be similar, recent data indicate low yields for the autumn/winter tomato of about 57 MT/Ha, however, spring/summer yields are expect higher at 78 MT/Ha.

Baja California and Sinaloa growers generally achieve the highest fresh tomato yields for open field production, 50 MT/Ha or more, due in part to their pest and disease control programs. Greenhouse/shade-house yields tend to vary significantly among producers, variety, and state. These yields generally range from 150 MT/Ha to 200 MT/Ha or higher depending on the

technology used. For example, Sinaloa can grow Roma tomatoes (saladette) in open field with yields of about 37 MT/Ha, while it can grow them under protected agriculture with yields ranging from 87 to 200 MT/Ha.

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