your-news image

“We are seeing tremendous growth” out of Nogales, said Luis Corella, who works in sales in the Nogales office of Fresno, CA-based Crown Jewels Produce Co., in an interview with The Produce News Nov. 16. “Basically, we are seeing an increase of anywhere between 30 and 40 percent” over last year “depending on the commodity

“We are working with new growers” in different growing regions of West Mexico, “and we are strategically located with them to where we are basically diversifying our risk” by having “two different growers per commodity in two different areas,” he said.

Part of the growth has come from extending the season on various commodities and part from adding new commodities to the mix. In addition, Crown Jewels has brought new people into the sales team in Nogales.

New on sales this season is Juan Medina, who “comes to us with about six years of produce experience from another distributor here in town,” Mr. Corella said. Mr. Medina was formerly with J.C. Distributing in Nogales. In addition, “we’ve got a new sales coordinator, Claudia Yanez,” who was previously with Fresh Express in Nogales. “And of course we’ve got Robbie Mathias Jr. and myself here in the office.”

Crown Jewels started shipping product from Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico through its Nogales facility in early October this year, Mr. Corella said. “It is the first time that Crown Jewels started at such an early time out of Nogales. We started basically on October 1st with squash and cucumbers.”

In early November, “we rolled into egg plant” and also started with green bell peppers, he said. So by Nov. 5, the company was going in four commodities, “which in Nogales is quite an accomplishment considering that there are very few items coming into town during this time period.”

Immediately after Thanksgiving, the company would begin getting into some major volume,” Mr. Corella said. “We have started our production … out of the Culiacan area” in the state of Sinaloa, “and we will go basically all the way through the 31st of May,” with product coming from Sinaloa through March and then back up north to the Hermosillo area of Sonora for April and May.

“The nice thing about our program is this year we’ve got product from the first of October” all the way into May, he said, “so we have accomplished eight months out of the year supplying products out of Mexico, and we have seen our numbers increase” on each item.

Crown Jewels will have several items in the tomato category this year — specifically Roma, round, grape and cherry tomatoes — beginning around the first week in December, Mr. Corella said. There will be “some decent volume” during the month of December. “It is not going to be light. It will be significant in December.” But the heaviest volume will begin around the end of December or early January.

A new commodity for Crown Jewels this year will be hard squash, which was expected to start around Nov. 20, he said. Varieties are Spaghetti, Acorn, Butternut and Kabocha. “It is mostly a winter deal that we have … coming out of Hermosillo for the most part.”

Also, “we are going to have colored bell peppers which start around the 15th of December,” Mr. Corella said.

Most of the products are grown in shadehouses, he said. “So a lot of it is protected agriculture. Basically our cucumbers, our tomatoes and our green bell peppers and colored bell peppers are all shade.” Only squash and elongated red bell peppers are still grown open field.

Another new item this season is watermelons. They started Nov. 5. ”We have watermelons right now in the fall, and we will have watermelons in the spring.”

Crown Jewels has a honeydew program, which “we have had in the past,” he said. This year, honeydews will be a year-round program for the company, with production out of Mexico during the fall, winter and spring, followed by a California program for summer.