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N.M. Chile Harvest Rises

N.M. Chile Harvest Rises

After years of decline, New Mexico harvested more chile last year

BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI

There’s some good news for New Mexico chile lovers and growers. After years of steady decline, chile production in the state rose slightly in 2015.

The number of acres planted grew to 8,300 from 8,100, and the harvest jumped to 66,700 tons from 58,700 tons in 2014, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture reported. The value of that crop was $41.1 million compared to $38.7 million in 2014.

While New Mexico farmers planted more chile last year, they harvested the same number of acres—7,700—as they did in 2014.

Harvested acres of long hot green varieties jumped to 2,000 acres in 2015, up from 1,200 acres the previous year, and harvested paprika acres increased to 3,200 acres from 3,100 acres.

New Mexico chile production has been on the decline since 1994 when the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect and decimated the industry. In 1992, state farmers harvested 34,500 acres of chile. That fell to 16,200 acres in 1999 and then to 7,700 acres this year and last.

The NMDA didn’t give a reason for the increased harvest. Weather and disease often play a role in the amount of chile harvested.

The other big chile news in 2015 was that, for the first time ever, a portion of the commercial crop was harvested mechanically. About 200 acres of the green chile crop were harvested with a mechanical picker developed and built in Israel.

In 2005, state farmers harvested 90,000 tons of chile.

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Johnny Vizcaino is an editorial intern at ABQ Free Press Weekly.

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