New practices, technologies could lead to lower production costs, higher demand
New hot pepper agronomic practices and technologies could help rejuvenate the U.S. market and help reduce production costs for producers.
Kevin Crosby, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research professor with Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Horticultural Sciences, Bryan-College Station, is leading a team to make this happen.
The team has received a $450,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crops Multi-State Program, USDA-AMS-SCMP, to develop novel solutions.
Implementing these solutions could help reverse a downward trend the U.S. hot pepper market has experienced in recent years due to foreign competition and concerns about production costs and food safety.
Reigniting the U.S. hot pepper market
The hot pepper market is volatile, Crosby said. Environmental stressors can have major effects on yield, and Mexico’s ability to supply year-round with low labor costs has caused a dependency on imports.
“When the cost of peppers is good, producers love to grow them. When it’s bad, they don’t. Harvesting is expensive, and producers can’t compete with Mexico’s prices,” he said.
Additionally, food safety continues to be a concern, as peppers are susceptible to carrying and spreading potentially harmful pathogens.
“Produce grown in the U.S. could be unaffected by an outbreak, but bad press on imports or in international markets still affects public perception,” Crosby said.
These obstacles have made many U.S. producers apprehensive about growing peppers, despite ideal growing climates in the Southwest and a rise in interest from specialty and niche markets.
But with the support from the USDA-AMS-SCMP, researchers and economists are teaming up to create a solution, identifying target windows in the market for production and sale, and developing new growing practices and cultivars that will give U.S. producers an edge on the competition.