Mexico is the second largest producer of bell peppers in the world next to China (p. 12) and the top exporter of bell pepper in the world. In 2019, it has produced close to 3.3 million tons of bell pepper. Of this total production, 34.2% of bell pepper production goes to exports. (p. 18) And its biggest customer? The US.
Of the total exports of Mexican bell peppers, 99.73% go to the US. (p. 28) Exports of bell peppers to the US also represent one-third of the total bell pepper production in Mexico. This only shows how the US’ bell pepper demand assists in the strong Mexican bell pepper industry.
The Scale of Bell Pepper Demand in the US
The US also has its own bell pepper production: the country has an average yield of 1.6 billion pounds of bell peppers annually. But the US’ supply is also comprised of 35% imports.
70% of the US’ bell pepper exports come from Mexico. In 2020, this translated to revenues of USD 700 million for farmers of Mexican bell peppers. (p. 5)
The US’ import of Mexican bell peppers have increased by 153.6% from 2011 to 2020. From USD 300,505 worth of bell pepper imports in 2011, it rose to USD 762.163 in 2020. (p. 31) Meanwhile, during the first quarter of 2021, Mexico exported bell pepper only to the US and Canada. For that period, exports of Mexican bell peppers to the US totaled to about 258 million kilos, amounting to USD 372.8 million. (p. 32)
The US imports of Mexican bell peppers rise during winter period when local production declines.
The top Mexican bell pepper companies that supply to the US are:
- Productos Elupac SA De SV (Puebla)
- Francisco Javier Sanchez Tapia (Guanajuato)
- Asociaciones Agroindustriales SA De CV (Veracruz)
- Tomás Ibarra Martínez (Puebla)
- Comercio Dinámico (Mexico City)
Productos Elupac is by far the largest shipper of Mexican bell peppers to the US, shipping 311,633 kilos of bell peppers to the US between 2015 to 2020. The next largest shipper of bell pepper is Asociaciones Agroindustriales, which has shipped 62,003 kilos in the same period. (p. 29)
US Qualifications for Bell Peppers
The US continuously imports Mexican bell peppers mainly because the Latin American country meets its quality criteria. (p.36) These are:
- Maturity: Mexican bell peppers are at an optimum stage of development and can withstand normal transport and handling conditions.
- Cleanliness: They are free of soil, dust, leaves, branches or any other foreign matter or chemical product, such as copper.
- Firmness: They are compact to the touch; not soft, wrinkled or flaccid.
- Appearance: Smooth and shiny, free of defects such as cracks, rots and sunburn, and free of insect damage and mechanical damage or bruising.
- Well-developed: Showing physical characteristics of size, firmness, and color typical of the crop and variety.
- Uniformity: Bell pepper batches should be, as much as possible, similar in color and shape.
Potential Barriers to Mexican Bell Pepper Exports to the US
Despite opportunities brought by the US to bell pepper growers in Mexico, the Latin American country also faced some obstacles from the US government.
The US International Trade Commission in late 2020 initiated two investigations into U.S. imports of Mexican produce, which includes bell peppers. The probe is expected to lead to market barriers, such as imposition of tariffs to growers of Mexican bell peppers.
The probe will see the US commission’s collection and analysis of information on U.S. imports of fresh bell peppers. (p.33-36)
In addition, the U.S. Government Support Plan for Producers of Seasonal and Perishable Fruits and Vegetables requested a fact-finding study on bell pepper trade between Mexico and the US amid the considerable increase in imports of Mexican bell peppers in recent years.
For US growers of bell peppers, such restrictions would be advantageous given that Mexican bell pepper imports to the US affect their competitiveness. Within the US, Florida, California, Georgia, and Michigan are the states that contribute to the bell pepper demand in the US. (p. 39)
But amid these probes, to-date the US has not yet imposed restrictions on Mexican bell pepper imports. However, given the increasing pressures from US bell pepper producers to impose tariffs on Mexican bell pepper imports, a potential regulation to impose tariffs on Mexican bell pepper imports could be revisited. (p.33-36)
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