Mexico is one of the top 10 tomato producers in the world. But in terms of Mexican tomato exports, this Latin American country is the leader. Mexico contributes 23.6% of the world’s tomato exports. For Mexican tomato growers, this means USD 2.1 million dollars of income. (p. 18-19)
Mexican tomato production and exports have been growing over the years, which presents an increasing opportunity for both Mexican tomato growers and buyers. Let’s look further into the Mexican tomato production and exports, and how it assists in the global trade.
Processes of Tomato Production in Mexico
Tomato production in Mexico had been mainly dominated by growth in the open fields, but Mexican tomato growers are also seen to have been increasingly adopting the use of newer farming technologies in cultivating tomatoes.
As of 2020, 40% of tomato production takes place in greenhouses and 26.4% in shade mesh, compared to 32.8% in open fields. (The challenges of tomato production and export in Mexico)
This also explains why Mexico’s overall harvest area for tomatoes has been decreasing in recent years. The country’s harvest area was the largest in 1999, when it had 82,700 hectares of dedicated area for tomato production. This decreased by about half 20 years after. In 2019, land for tomato cultivation was only 46,200 hectares. (p. 31)
But even with Mexico’s harvest area decreasing, the country’s yields have stayed fairly consistent. Mexican tomato yield in 2018 was 76.8 tons per hectare, while yield was only reduced to 74.4 tons per hectare in 2019. This is because greenhouses and shade houses, which when combined comprise 34.4% of tomato production in Mexico, obtain 2.5 times more value than open-field production. (p. 40-41)
Strategic Regions for Tomato Production in Mexico
There are over 30 Mexican states that contribute to tomato production in the country. Of this number the top Mexican tomato producing states are: (p. 34)
- San Luis Potosi
- Baja California Sur
- Baja California
The tomato production in the top five Mexican states — Sinaloa, San Luis Potosi, Michoacan, Zacatecas, and Jalisco — encompass about 50% of the total tomato volumes in the country. (The challenges of tomato production and export in Mexico)
Sinaloa is the Mexican state touted as the undisputed leader in tomato production. The state produced 764,435 tons in 2019. In fact, Sinaloa leads in tomato production by a huge margin versus other Mexican states. San Luis Potosi, which is the second largest producer of tomatoes in Mexico, had 391,719 tons of tomatoes in 2019, which is just a little bit more than half of Sinaloa’s production.
Another Mexican state, Querétaro, is not one of the top tomato producing states in Mexico, but still presents an opportunity. Querétaro only has 280 hectares of tomato production, only 2% of Sinaloa’s harvest area. However, Querétaro produces a high yield of 107,515 tons due to the use of high-tech greenhouses. (p.36)
Querétaro, together with Nuevo León, Coahuila and Puebla, have the highest average tomato production in Mexico, exceeding 300 tons per hectare, due to their investments in protected cultivation of tomatoes. (The challenges of tomato production and export in Mexico)
Exports of Mexican Tomato
In 2019, Mexico exported a total of 1.8 million tons of tomatoes, and the various Mexican tomato producing states contribute to this. (p. 18)
As the top tomato producing state, Sinaloa houses six of the top 16 companies that export fresh tomatoes to the US. They are: (p. 21)
- Ceuta Produce
- Daniel Cárdenas Cevallos
- Agroexportadora del Noroeste
- Del Campo y Asociados
- Agrícola De Gala
- Agrícola Paredes
When combined, these companies exported 633.4 million kilos of fresh tomatoes to the US in 2019. (p. 21)
However, despite Sinaloa’s leadership in tomato production in the entire Mexico, the top exporter of fresh tomatoes does not come from there. The top Mexican exporter is Negocio Agrícola San Enrique based in Baja California Sur, the sixth largest state in terms of tomato production in Mexico. The company exported 272.3 million kilos of fresh tomatoes to the US in the five-year period ending in 2020. (p. 21)
Mexico’s tomato export to the US are important for Mexico’s agricultural industry since the US is Mexico’s largest importer of its tomatoes. In fact, 99.6% of its tomato exports go to the US. (p. 18)
Mexico’s shipping points are also strategically located up north, making it an easier access for tomato importers in the US. The top shipping points for tomato export in Mexico are: (p. 23)
- Tijuana, Baja California
- Mexicali, Baja California
- Nogales, Sonora
- Piedras Negras, Coahuila
- Colombia, Nuevo León
- Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas
- Ciudad Reynosa, Tamaulipas
- Matamoros, Tamaulipas
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The challenges of tomato production and export in Mexico