Greenhouse Italian eggplant is limited in availability right now.
“It’s as expected at this time of year,” says Daniel Mosquera of MamaMia Produce in East Rutherford, NJ. “The supplies into the U.S. are from Spain and a little bit from Mexico.” Mexico supplies these eggplants year-round as it grows in two different regions.
That said, what is available is having quality issues. “The weather has been pretty erratic lately in Mexico and the quality is not there. It’s very cold in some areas of Mexico,” says Mosquera. “And the sizing from Spain is a bigger size of Italian eggplant. On greenhouse products, the Spanish usually grow a bit of a larger size—more like a 16-20 count rather than a 20-24 count.”
Italian eggplant from MamaMia Produce.
More supplies coming
That said, more countries will begin sending greenhouse Italian eggplant within the coming weeks. “The Netherlands, which has already started, will start with good volume in two more weeks and usually that’s really good product in quality, color and size. They should have a good supply of Italian and graffiti eggplants,” says Mosquera. “And we’ll have our own Italian eggplant coming from the Dominican Republic. We should increase production as well in week 8 which is two more weeks from now.” The Dominican supplies year-round thanks to rotating greenhouse production.
Demand meanwhile is strong for the vegetable. “The markets are high because there’s not a lot of supply and that brings demand down a little bit. But it’s pretty steady,” says Mosquera. “It’s a good idea to have Italian eggplant at this time of year.”
Tricolor eggplant tray.
In fact, Mosquera sees significant growth in Italian eggplants. “We’re seeing that market grow eight to 10 percent per year,” he notes. He adds that the packaging of the product— Mosquera does a bi-color and a tricolor in an overwrapped tray—is eye catching to the consumer. “I’m very excited about the tray which combines regular Italian, Graffiti and white eggplant,” says Mosquera. “There are so many new sources of information teaching consumers about eating healthy. They’re substituting items for meat--especially vegetables--and they’re looking for things to make their plate more colorful.”
Graffitti eggplant from MamaMia.
Pricing in the meantime is similar to last year’s pricing levels. “Looking ahead, I think the price will stay the same. Even when the Netherlands crop starts, I don’t expect them to start with huge volume so it should be a steady supply and market,” says Mosquera. “And I think around two months from now, we’ll see the markets go lower.”
He also anticipates steady production from the Dominican until week 24. “And after that, supplies go down about 40 percent,” he says. “But that happens around June and it’s a good time to go down because that’s when the Canadians come in with good numbers.”