NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Chile harvesting will begin in about a month, but for many farmers, this has been a more challenging year. Because of this, consumers may see that struggle translate to the price you pay for it.
“To a New Mexican, chile is like turkey to Thanksgiving. It’s just that simple,” says Glen Duggin, chile farmer and owner of Five Star Chili Cinco Estrella in Lemitar.
At his farm, work is well underway ahead of the harvest, but Duggins says it has been a difficult season. “We were out of water before it rained. Done! We were running pumps at a cost of $500 a day, day and night. For days. And then it rained.”
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But problems for the chiles didn’t end there: with the rain came the problem of over-watering, risked killing the crops again. Besides contending with Mother Nature, inflation has plagued farmers, too. “With today’s prices—everybody feels the pain at the pump. This thing here probably uses 200 gallons, 150 gallons at $6? That’s $1000 to fill it up,” Duggins says, gesturing to a tractor.
Not to mention the cost of things like fertilizer. Duggins says the cost of a pallet is three hundred percent higher than last year. Duggins also says a labor shortage has led to farmers planting smaller chile crops.
Chile farmers tell KRQE News 13 that the rising cost of growing New Mexico’s iconic crops means there could be less of it on the shelves, and that which you do find could be more expensive. “Well, they love their chile here, but I don’t know how to price it, but it’s gonna be noticeably more money. We have always pulled through. And we’ll pull through this year. There’ll be chile at the store, but it’s gonna cost more,” Duggins says.
According to a study by the USDA and New Mexico Department of Agriculture, there has been a 22 percent decrease in total chile production in New Mexico between 2020 and 2021. Duggins is the president of the New Mexico Chile Association. He says it is too early to say how much of an increase you will see in purchasing chile this year.