New Mexico farms and food businesses are making their mark across the ocean as international demand for pecans, dairy products, beef cattle and other products continues to grow.
The world has gone nuts for pecans, and the higher global demand encouraged increased production in New Mexico, now the country’s highest-volume producer. “Demand for U.S. pecans shifted substantially 10 years ago,” says Greg Daviet, farm manager at Dixie Ranch, near Las Cruces. The new demand from Asia was for large pecans, still in the shell, marketed for Chinese New Year celebrations. “That was a new type of market, as the U.S. was always focused on shelling pecans.”
New Mexico pecan growers have adapted some production to meet the Asian demand for very large in-shell pecans. But pecan farms here are best-known for shipping pecans with superior shelling characteristics, and global shelled demand persists.
“South Korea’s really becoming a very good market for shelled pecans,” says Jason New, marketing division director for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA). The NMDA cooperates with the U.S. pecan industry to develop other markets in Asia, like Vietnam. Shelled pecans are showing strength in Western Europe, Turkey and the Middle East.
Cattle Call & Say Cheese
New Mexico prides itself on its exceptional cattle genetics, making the international cattle trade a natural and successful choice.
New Mexico cattle ranchers export some of the world’s finest livestock genetics. The NMDA New Mexico Livestock Genetics Export Program has long helped ranchers send outstanding bulls and females to Mexico. The program represents New Mexico cattle producers at Mexico cattle industry events and hosts inbound delegations at events in the U.S. It’s a win all around for the cattle industry, as improving genetics in Mexican cattle herds also improves feeder cattle imported to New Mexico.
The feeder cattle arrive here from Mexico, through Santa Teresa and Columbus, gaining weight on the New Mexico range before moving closer to out-of-state beef processors. “Even though that beef isn’t directly exported from New Mexico, we play a big part in raising those cattle,” New says.
Dairy cattle are a huge part of the state’s agricultural exports. Some of the world’s largest dairy processors maintain plants in New Mexico, making milk from New Mexico into cheese, whey protein and other dairy products sent worldwide. The Leprino Foods plant in Roswell is one of nine U.S. plants operated by the world’s largest mozzarella manufacturer. Saputo Inc., one of the top three U.S. cheese producers, operates a plant in Las Cruces. The Southwest Cheese plant in Clovis is a joint venture between Glanbia plc and U.S. dairy producers.
Natural Advantages, New Products
From pecans to dairy products, New Mexico has natural advantages for international trade. “We share a border with Mexico, and we have the Santa Teresa port of entry which gives us access to trade between Mexico and the United States,” notes Daviet.
Livestock trade has also increased through Santa Teresa, and the state’s I-10 and I-25 corridors create good availability for trucks carrying New Mexico products as diverse as cheese and whey to pinto beans and beverages. “We have introduced buyers from Mexico, Japan and the EU to New Mexico craft beers, wines and spirits,” New says.
Rail access in southern New Mexico is another advantage for some products. “With the Union Pacific rail yard in southern New Mexico, we can send pecans to coastal ports in both the east and west,” Daviet says. “Our product can be put on a shipping container, loaded on a train and moved across the ocean to Asia. There are opportunities for shipping efficiencies around the world from here in southern New Mexico.”