(Dec. 11) BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Sun World International Inc. has added two Saudi Arabian companies to its list of international grower-shippers that produce the company’s Sugraone grape variety.

Tabuk Agricultural Development Co. and Al-Khalidiah Farm have acquired permission to grow and market the grape under Sun World’s brand name, Superior Seedless. Sun World purchased the brand in 1989.

The proprietary variety now is grown in North and South America, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and South Africa.

Tabuk had grown the Sugraone grapes for about two years without approval from Sun World, while the variety will be new for Al-Khalidiah. A fee-based agreement gave the Saudi companies authorization to produce the grapes, said David Marguleas, Sun World’s senior vice president of licensing and corporate development.

Financial information was not disclosed.

With the addition of the two companies, Sun World’s Superior Seedless grapes are grown on about 15,000 acres.

A license will allow Tabuk and Al-Khalidiah to plant new acreage this winter. Marguleas said he was unsure how many acres of the grapes might be planted.

The commodity is shipped nine months a year. It is not available in August, September and March.

The company ships 10 million to 12 million 19-pound boxes of the grapes per year, with about 3 million boxes coming from California. Marguleas said in December that it was too early to tell how many boxes might be shipped from Saudi Arabia.

The first shipment of Superior Seedless grapes from Saudi Arabia will be in June, but significant volumes won’t be available until summer 2005, Marguleas said. The grapes will be shipped within Saudi Arabia and to European markets.

Sun World will provide the Saudi companies with Superior Seedless plant material, technical information and marketing assistance. Two technicians, who travel to Sun World’s growing regions, will give the grower-shippers advice on production practices, while sign cards, logos, packaging graphics and other promotional materials will be made available.

“Saudi Arabia is a relative newcomer to growing seedless grapes,” Marguleas said. “This is our first agreement in Saudi Arabia, and it’s really the first opportunity that customers anywhere would have to source Superior Seedless grapes from Saudi Arabia legitimately.”