Mexico Freeze Wipes Out Crops

Freezing temperatures across a wide swath of Mexico the night of Feb. 3-4 could have a huge effect on supplies of tomatoes, peppers and other winter vegetables.

The freeze reached fields as far south as southern Sinaloa. Crops in the border state of Sonora could be devastated.

“The last time there was a freeze of this severity was 1957,” said Jerry Wagner, director of sales and marketing for Nogales, Ariz.-based Farmer’s Best. “It’s still too early to tell, but there’s a lot of damage.”

All of the growing regions Farmer’s Best ships from suffered freezing temperatures, Wagner said. The company’s full line of vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash, was likely affected.

One industry veteran told Jesse Driskill, operations manager of the Nogales office of Meyer LLC, that Mexico had not had a freeze like this in 60 years.

What made this one even worse, Driskill said, is that forecasts were 5 to 10 degrees higher than what temperatures wound up being. Many growers took precautions, he said, but they did not harvest early because they did not expect it to get so cold.

As a result, the damage in some areas will likely be nothing short of devastating, Driskill said.

“We’re pretty sure that everything in Sonora is frozen and gone,” he said.

Squash and melons are two of the commodities that will be most affected by the Sonora freeze, Driskill said. Tomatoes and peppers won’t ship from the region until March or April.

“It’s been a rough day,” said Lee Anne Oxford, marketing director for Raleigh, N.C.-based grower-shipper L&M Cos. Inc. “Right now we have all of our growers out in various fields. We’re expecting to regroup over the weekend and hopefully know where we stand by Sunday.”

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