Chile farmers battle drought and worker shortage amid pandemic | KOB 4

Chile farmers battle drought and worker shortage amid pandemic

Chile farmers battle drought and worker shortage amid pandemic

Brett Luna
Updated: July 21, 2020 05:30 PM
Created: July 20, 2020 06:21 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Chile farmers across the state have been battling drought and worker shortage on top of the coronavirus pandemic, but they’re determined to get the New Mexico staple into the hands of the people who love it.

"There's some great crops all the way from southern to northern New Mexico and east to west.  It's all over the place, and it's looking good,” said Joram Robbs, executive director for the New Mexico Chile Association.

Robbs said the season is looking strong right now and some farmers are getting ready to start picking.

"Starting this week they're going to start picking down in southern New Mexico and that will kinda steadily move up with the green all the way up the state,” Robbs said.

Even with the strong season, COVID-19 has inevitably impacted the market for chile.

"It makes it really difficult when the supply chain is getting changed up like this,” Robbs said.

Typically, there’s a few markets chile can be sold to like grocery stores, restaurants and distributors.

"When restaurants get shut off, that's going to change it up for a lot of farmers,” Robbs said. “These distributors they're selling to that go to restaurants— they don't have a place to send their chile anymore or their crop so that switches it up where you have to find a new place to send your chile. You have to find either a manufacturer that's making salsa that you want to sell to or if you want to go straight into the fresh market and sell it to grocery stores and sell it for consumers to buy it directly from there."

Another issue farmers face is drought. Since the Rio Grande isn’t flowing like most would like to see, farmers that have pumps are running them hard.

"They pump 2,000 gallons a piece, so we're pumping like 6,000 gallons a minute right now,” said Glen Duggins, a chile farmer.

Drought conditions are present across a good portion of the state right now. With the help of his pumps and other good farming practices, Duggins said his plants haven’t taken too big of a hit.

"When it gets dry like this we want to prevent the ground from cracking and if it cracks we want to cover those cracks, so by cultivating the ground we're covering the cracks and therefore saving the moisture,” Duggins said.

Robbs said in order to help support local chile farmers, people should look for the New Mexico Chile Association logo on the chile products they buy.

"We do audits. We check and we know the GPS locations of all this chile, where it's from, so when you buy something with this logo on it you get traceability, you get food security,” Robbs said. "We want to make sure our farmers, our families here are being protected that are still farming out here and growing this great crop.”

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