Mexican exporters ship grapes to diverse destinations

04/19/2013 11:20:00 AM
Cynthia David

Southeast Asia remains a popular destination for Mexican grapes.

“We export a lot to Europe and the Far East, and we’ve had steady growth for the past five years,” said Jerry Havel, director of sales and marketing at Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Farms.

“It seems like it’s increasing every year,” he said.

Countries such as Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines like Mexican grapes because they fill a need in their markets when there’s not much available elsewhere, Havel said.

“As an industry, our quality has improved in the last several years,” Havel said.

“I think the way we farm in Mexico is very similar to the best farms in California,” he said.

“Our food safety is top notch, and our farming practices are as high-tech as you can get, which allows us to produce a nice grape. It’s strong, it’s big, it’s got good sugar, and it arrives in very nice condition,” he said.

While Mexican red globes remain a huge grape for export, David Espinoza, president and sourcing director for the new Charlotte, N.C.-based International Fruit Co., which markets Chiquita grapes, says this may change.

“The Asian market demand is increasing on seedless varieties,” Espinoza said, “which probably will make a difference in the near future.”

IFC plans to export grapes to specific retailers in Asia that handle its label, he said.

Bakersfield, Calif.-based Stevco exports predominantly red globes, with Indonesia a big customer, said Jared Lane, vice president of marketing.

“We also pack some seedless for export in a corrugated plastic box because it ships better on the containers and you can ship more boxes,” Lane said.

After exporting melons to Japan for 20 years and opening an office there, Rio Rico, Ariz.-based MAS Melons & Grapes sent its first seedless grapes to Japan last year, said owner Miguel Suarez.

This year looks promising, Suarez said, and the Japanese have asked for an 8-ounce clamshell.

MAS also exports to New Zealand and Southeast Asia, and Suarez said his business is growing into Central and South America.

Sun World International LLC, based in Bakersfield, plans to export its black seedless Midnight Beauty grapes to the United Kingdom this year, said marketing manager Natalie Erlendson.

The grower-shipper may also export flame seedless to the region, Erlendson said, depending on how the variety naturally colors.

Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group plans to export red globes throughout Central America this year as well as the Philippines, said Marc Serpa, director of domestic grapes.



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