ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A recent New York Times article is spelling out serious gloom and doom for New Mexico’s chile industry, but people in the state who know the industry say there’s no need to panic.
The article claims farmers are seeing the hardest times for production of the New Mexico staple in decades because of drought and labor shortages.
New Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte said while it’s true the state deals with drought, it’s nothing new.
“Producers are realizing this and they’re continuing to improve their production practices and they’re going to meet the demand. We will never run out of green chile and, in fact, I feel pretty optimistic for the future,” he explained.
He said while the state has reduced chile acreage by more than 26,000 since the 1990s, the chile crop yield has significantly increased because of improved irrigation practices.
“They could grow other things on the other land and still have a viable chile crop on fewer acres,” Witte said.
Meanwhile, New Mexico State University is addressing the labor need by researching ways to mechanically harvest chile.
“There are a lot of things happening here at the college in terms of utilization,” said NMSU Dean of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Rolando Flores.
Flores added that chile remains one of the top priorities at NMSU and at the Chile Pepper Institute. Their daily mission is to not only ensure this crop survives, but thrives.
“Here in the college, we are always developing [and] working new varieties that are… more tolerant to drought,” said Flores.
Witte said more people are consuming Hatch chile than ever before. A new article from the National Restaurant News Group stated the use of green chile has risen across the country by 97 percent.