While most green chili pepper growers in southern New Mexico say it has been a good year for their famously spicy crop, others say they suffered from heavy rains and even a few hail storms late in the season that slowed harvest and in some cases damaged their crop and slowed harvest in the fields.

But with the advent of cooler weather and the biological changes in pepper plants as a result, green pepper harvest is winding down now and harvesting red peppers now takes over as the primary task at hand, with early reports indicating there are still plenty of red peppers being picked and dried and sold at roadside stands and grocery stores across the Southwest.

In chili-rich Doña Ana County, the mega-center of chili pepper production in a state famous for chili peppers, this year's crop has been somewhat of a mixed bag.

Salem farmer Jerry Franzoy reports the harvest season started off in August under prime conditions, but with the advent September, heavy rains forced harvesters out of the fields and some plants were damaged as a result of the weather. The set back wasn't great however and resulted in a loss of "less than five percent under early harvest expectations."

But Franzoy says in spite of the heavy rains that diminished production slightly around Hatch, chili peppers fields around the Las Uvas Valley area produced peppers of excellent quality.

 

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Chris Biad, whose family grow chilis and operate a processing plant that handles chili peppers purchased from multiple growers, says he started the season with a lot of unanswered questions. For one, a shortage of irrigation water from the Rio Grande river was a major concern. Diminishing flows caused by consecutive years of extreme drought limited irrigation water for all of southern New Mexico, and Biad said growers had to resort to pumping groundwater from over-taxed wells.

"It increased our production costs considerably and we prefer to have the sweet water of the river as it plays an important role in our chile in terms of both quality and taste. But most every grower is reporting a good crop this year with good to excellent quality, and demand remains high," Biad said.