Importers of Mexican berries report strong demand for larger volumes of fruit.

Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Associates Marketing is importing blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries from Mexico for the first time this season, said Jim Pandol, the company’s president.

“The seasonality of it works well with the other crops we have,” said Pandol. “It’s a good, logical place for us to expand.”

Most of Pandol Associates’ berries come from Jalisco, in fields near where the company sources grapes, its top commodity, Pandol said.

Because of its proximity to the U.S., Mexico is a nice berry alternative to Chile, Pandol said.

“Especially with blackberries and raspberries, you need to get it here quickly.”

If the product’s coming from Chile, that often means flying it up, which not only is expensive but can be unreliable, Pandol said.

Another plus is a significant boost in the quality of Mexican berries in recent years, Pandol said.

Chicago-based Sun Belle Inc. is importing blackberries and raspberries from Mexico this season, said Janice Honigberg, the company’s president.

Because blackberry shipments began in the second half of September, Sun Belle has seen volumes increase every week, with two exceptions due to rain, Honigberg said.

“Quality and demand is good at the moment, with a lot of activity in December,” Honigberg said.

Sun Belle imports the Tupy variety of blackberry from Mexico. Volumes are up over last season, Honigberg said, and shipments are expected to continue into early June.

On Dec. 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $7-8 for flats of 12 6-ounce cups of Mexican blackberries, up from $6-7 last year at the same time.

Sun Belle’s raspberry volumes from Mexico, meanwhile, are expected to be four times bigger than last season, Honigberg said. The deal began in late September and is expected to wind down in early June.

Sun Belle imports Erika raspberries, for which it has the exclusive growing rights in the Americas, Honigberg said. The Erika is known for its large size and flavor, she said.

“Demand is excellent.”

On Dec. 4, the USDA reported prices of $18-20 for flats of 12 6-ounce cups of Mexican raspberries, up from $14-16 last year.

Pandol Associates’ 2012-13 Mexican berry program is tilted heavily toward blackberries, with much smaller volumes of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, Pandol said.

The company began sourcing blackberries in early November, and expects to ship them through March, he said.

Pandol reported good quality and decent demand for Mexican blackberries the week of Dec. 3.