“Our overall program is similar to last year, as far as the products are concerned, but our acreage has increased just about across the board on everything that we grow, so we are building on the winter program,” said Mike Aiton, marketing manager for Prime Time Sales LLC, which is headquartered in Coachella, CA.
Bell peppers continue to be the company’s biggest commodity, he said. “We have both field grown and protected structure or hothouse-grown peppers all winter long.” Red bells are the biggest-volume item in the category for the company, followed by green bells, then yellow, then orange.
“We have production in both mainland Mexico and also in Baja, so we cross product into Nogales [AZ] and into San Diego,” he said.
In mainland Mexico, Prime Time grows peppers in Sinaloa and has a greenhouse operation in Jalisco.
By early December, “we will be have been harvesting the red, yellow and orange blocky bells from hothouses for a month and also green bell peppers. We will just be starting our red pepper production,” he said. Throughout December, volume will ramp up “with more volume every week,” and by January there will be “promotional volumes pretty much across the board.” The company “planted a little bit more on everything” this year.
As of mid-November, Prime Time was harvesting hothouse peppers in both Baja and Jalisco, “starting in a modest way,” he said. “The market is high, and demand is good, and supplies are very tight in advance of the [Thanksgiving] holiday. Our field grown production still hasn’t quite kicked in.”
Prime Time has bell pepper fields in the Coachella Valley as well that were just about ready to harvest. Those were set to start “actually tomorrow” [Nov. 15], Mr. Aiton said. “The size is quite small here. Because of the heat, the peppers just didn’t grow much, so I think people are going to be seeing smaller sized peppers from now through Christmastime before we start getting into the new crop and bigger sizes” from different areas.
This winter, Prime Time has also “ramped up production on the mini-sweet peppers,” Mr. Aiton said. “Those are red, yellow and orange.” They are main field grown, with “a little bit in shadehouse. But w have just about doubled our production in Mexico from a year ago, so we are very bullish on that program.”
The season on the minis is “exactly the same” as for regular bell peppers, he said. They should be in production in Mexico by early December.
“Right now, the crop looks very good,” he said. “We have a brand new packinghouse in Culiacan” for which “this will be the second year,” he said. “It is a considerable investment on our part in Mexico. It really is exactly the same packinghouse as we have in Coachella, so the procedures and the guidelines and even the personnel are the same in Mexico as we have in California. I think that is one of the advantages that we offer — the consistency in quality and the standards are the same wherever you buy our peppers.”
Prime Time also has “a pretty good selection of tomatoes that we grow in Baja,” he said. “We have round tomatoes plus grape tomatoes and Romas. We have increasing volume on those tomatoes crossing in San Diego, and we will have those, as well, all winter long.” The harvest had already started, “so we are in that game right now.”