Chiles from China threaten American growers

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by ANGELA KOCHERGA

Bio | Email | Follow: @AKochergaBorder

WFAA

Posted on September 2, 2013 at 8:57 AM

MESILLA PARK, New Mexico — The popularity of hot peppers only continues to grow. This time of year, Hatch green chile lovers are eating up the freshly-picked peppers.

It's a bountiful crop, but farmers say they are still struggling.

Andy Haywood stopped in to get some chile peppers fresh from the fields and fire-roasted. "We're taking it back to some people who are out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area," he said.

Those who can't pick up boxes full of peppers in person pay to have chiles shipped just about everywhere.

"Maine, Alaska, Hawaii... every state in the U.S. we sell to," said Chris Biad, owner of Biad Chili Products, 35 miles northwest of El Paso.

Sales at Biad's firm are up by 25 percent this year. During the harvest season employees roast, peel and package 6.5 million pounds of peppers.

While America's appetite for hot peppers has grown, so has the competition from China, where labor is cheaper. To make matters worse, some of the foreign varieties are masquerading as American-grown.

To compete with lower-priced peppers, Biad and other growers are offering organic and heirloom varieties after finding that customers are willing to pay more.

"Not only do they have five times the flavor, they also have consistency in heat, size, thickness, and that's what we want to have," Biad said.

All the chile picked this time this time of year is green, but you can already see signs of fall. By October, all the chile in the fields will be red.

Growers hope they can stay out of the red by focusing on flavor as competition heats up.

E-mail akocherga@belo.com

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