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Rosa got the fame, but another storm damaged Mexican crops

There may be a shortage of vegetables from Mexico this November and December.

A hurricane in late September, which in early October dissipated to become Tropical Storm Rosa, got all the publicity as the spinning weather mass churned from the Pacific Ocean toward the northwestern corner of Mexico; however, it was Tropical Depression 19-E that proved damaging to vegetable growers on Mexico’s west coast.stor The high-water mark of flooding around a vegetable shade house near Culiacan, Sinaloa, is evident. Photo by Omar Losolla

Rosa cut across the northern reaches of the Baja peninsula, and across the northwestern corner of Sonora.

On Oct. 2, a day after returning to his Nogales office from Sonora, Omar Losolla, director of sales and marketing for GreenPoint Distributing LLC, said that, in Rosa’s wake, “really there was not much damage in the Sonora crops. The majority of the rain was concentrated in northwest Sonora, north of Hermosillo, Guaymas, Obregon and Navojoa, which all have very sizeable growing regions.” Those regions “were really not impacted by this storm. There may be some quality problems that can arise in Caborca with any and all of the products grown in that area.” But Caborca is “the growing area that I heard received the highest amount of rain.”

On Oct. 2, Matt Mandel, the chief operating officer of SunFed in Nogales, also indicated that Tropical Storm Rosa did little more in Sonora than provide a helpful rain that would keep growers out of the fields for a couple of days.

Bell pepper distributor Bobby Astengo, managing director of Peppers-Plus LLC, confirmed that “Rosa petered out and lost strength” before hitting Baja, northern Sinaloa and Nogales.

But, Losolla noted, there was “a system that no one is talking about that developed off the coast of Sinaloa named Tropical Depression 19-E. This dropped an incredible amount of rain on north-central Sinaloa and southern Sonora. This storm will cause delays and shortages for the month of November and December on eggplants, Bell peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. There were many growers that had already planted and lost all of their crops. This was not a huge storm but the amount of rain it dropped was unprecedented. Nothing like this had been seen in Sinaloa since 1949.”

Losolla said the tropical storm hammered Culiacan and points to the north in the Sept. 19-20 timeframe.

Others confirmed that it was the lesser-known storm that will impact the fall deal from Mexico.

From his Nogales office, Astengo explained that Tropical Depression 19-E received no advance publicity because it developed in the Sea of Cortes, immediately off the Sinaloa’s central coast, which is Culiacan’s location. “No one saw it coming,” he added.

Astengo said that Sea of Cortes’ waters early this fall was an extraordinarily warm; 93 degrees, up from the normal of 84. This warm water is more prone to develop major weather events.

Astengo confirmed an earlier indication to The Produce News that most of 19-E’s damage was to urban areas around Culiacan. But Losolla provided pictures he shot Sept. 20-21 in growing areas outside of Culiacan that show tremendous damage to Culiacan shade houses.

Mandel suggested that the 19-E damage in Culiacan was unequally distributed. He believed that, overall, Culiacan may see “a bit of a delay” in shipping but “no drop in total production.” SunFed will begin shipping its cucumbers and eggplant from Culiacan about Oct. 20.

Astengo said vegetable production areas in northern Sinaloa, around Los Mochis, were also damaged by 19-E. But more than crops, it was the Los Mochis-area neighborhoods that house vegetable pickers in “very rural areas” that were swamped in as much as six feet of flood water.

Astengo was aware of one major Bell pepper producer near Highway 15 around Los Mochis that suffered a great deal of damage, with flooding six feet deep. Astengo’s own Los Mochis pepper grower suffered, roughly-speaking, a 10 percent crop loss. “He is trying to decide if it is worth replanting or just cutting his losses” and not re-investing in washed-out production.

Losolla also indicated that 19-E “developed right off the coast. It set up over Sinaloa and the canals and rivers overflowed. It flattened a bunch of crops. Maybe a grower hadn’t planted yet, but he may have set his beds with plastic. That plastic now is not there. A river ran over it!”

Losolla continued, “The good news is that there wasn’t a lot planted. The guys know that in September, things like this can happen.” As a result, the bulk of the planting begins in October.

Losolla said that GreenPoint only lost about 12 acres of vegetables in early Sinaloa plantings.

Losolla added that all the water saturated the heavy soils of the Culiacan area. Thus, re-planting or planting will be delayed at least two or three weeks. “A planting that was going to be planted Oct. 1 may not be planted now until Nov. 1."