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Peppers Plus pleased with this Bell pepper season

Timing wasn’t on Bobby Astengo’s side a year ago. He had just renamed his Bell pepper distributorship to Peppers Plus LLC. And then the market fell out of bed for Bell peppers — and about any other produce item shipped from Mexico — or by Florida competitors.

Fast forward to January 2018 and Astengo enthusiastically said, “Things are really good. It is not last year! Last year is behind me.”

But the awful markets last year “showed me that I can do it in a bad year. I am mighty proud of that. I have to thank my fine growers for the quality for allowing us to survive a bad market situation.”

Bobby-AstengoBobby Astengo, the managing director of Peppers Plus LLC, shows his orange and red Bell peppers. Because of cool weather, pepper production in Los Mochis, Sinaloa had a slow start, but the Bells were ready for shipping by Jan. 15. The pepper plants are yielding jumbos and extra large, “which, for a farmer, is good news. The weather has been blessedly good, and we’ve had good quality. The product being shipped from Mexico to Nogales now is good to excellent!”

Astengo works with two growers. They are partners in Peppers Plus but Astengo is the majority stockholder.

“We have had a very good start” this season. “We are in a promotional pricing mode from now until the end of February. We’ll have six weeks of good promotable volume.”

Another positive for Peppers Plus is that the firm has completed a move into a Rio Rico office and warehouse space that was previously occupied by Righetti Farms LLC. In January Righetti moved into a new facility owned by Higueral Produce Inc.

Astengo hasn’t been exempt from the national plague of transportation inability. He indicates that the supplies were worst around Christmas and the New Year. By mid-January availability had improved and “freight rates are down somewhat,” Astengo noted.

“It definitely affected us. There was an emphasis on what commodities they put on board” a trailer. The items in less demand — and lower prices — were the first not to be selected for a ride on expensive trucks.

Pepper prices were high in December, Astengo noted, “but we still felt a scarcity when trucks got tight.”

Astengo noted that Nogales companies shipping many commodities or those consolidating loads were especially successful during truck shortages because they could arrange loads to be most-efficient for buyer demands.

“The days of asking drivers to do 12 LTL pick ups in Nogales are a thing of the past,” he added. Meanwhile, the success will go to “consolidation of mixer loads; the people who have 10 consolidations on a mixer truck. Having all the pick-ups in one place is a value-added service.”