(May 5, 9:40 a.m.) Most Mexican table grape growers export the vast majority of their product to the U.S. and Canada. However, as produce from Mexico continues to build a strong reputation worldwide, growers are shipping more of their product to places like the United Kingdom, Pacific Rim countries and China.

Pacific Trellis Fruit, Reedley, Calif., has shipped some Mexican grapes to the United Kingdom and exported to Asia last year for the first time, said Omar Abu-Ghazaleh, imports manager.

The buying power of Central America also is increasing significantly along with an interest in Mexican table grapes, so the company also ships to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica.

In all, the company exports up to 10% of its Mexican-grown table grapes to places other than the U.S. and Canada.

“Nowadays, you have to diversify your markets as much as possible,” Abu-Ghazaleh said.

Plastic containers are the containers of choice for grape exports because they are more efficient for transportation and allow better air flow for the product, he added.

Frank’s Distributing of Produce LLC and Bionova Produce Inc., both in Nogales, Ariz., export primarily flames, some sugraones and a lot of red globes to Pacific Rim markets, said Montie McGovern, director of operations.

The companies export 65% of their red globes to countries other than the U.S.

Some companies ship heavily to the United Kingdom, but for McGovern, those shipments depend on market conditions there and on what product is available from India and Egypt.

The companies enjoy consistent business with Hong Kong on flames and sugraones, he said, but red globes generally are more popular throughout the Pacific Rim.

Stevco Inc., Los Angeles, exports up to 10% of its Mexican grapes, said Jared Lane, sales manager.

Shipments have increased lately as Mexico’s fruit becomes more accepted worldwide, he said.

The company exports all varieties and ships in corrugated plastic containers to places like Malaysia, Sri Lanka, China and Hong Kong.

Miguel Suarez, owner of MAS Melons & Grapes, Nogales, Ariz., said he used to export a significant amount of grapes to England, but that business has been reduced as countries in northern Africa increase their shipments every year.

Suarez also has seen a gradual change in the table grape industry in India, which also supplied grapes to England. At first, the industry there consisted of numerous small growers who shipped product of inconsistent quality.

“Apparently, the new generations are getting more organized,” Suarez said.

Farms are getting bigger and quality is improving. That affects Mexican exports, which are produced at the same time.

As a result, Suarez said, his business to Europe has been decreasing every year, especially on green grapes.

Good growing conditions in India and north Africa and an extended Chilean deal mean fewer options for Mexican growers, he said, but opportunities remain for red grapes.

The company has programs in place with buyers in Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, he said.

Export deals can be much more challenging than shipping to North America, but shippers say they also can be more profitable.

“There are quite a bit of regulations to most of these countries,” said Abu-Ghazaleh, “but where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

The risks are greater when exporting table grapes, Stevco’s Lane said. A shipper must send his highest-quality product, but the returns are higher and generally well worth the risk.

“Our (export) business has stayed pretty steady,” McGovern said, but export volume often is tied to conditions in other growing areas, including Chile, as well as in the destination countries.

Crop size also can affect exports. If Mexico’s crop is light and the North American markets are strong, shippers are likely to export less product, he said.

One of the newest export destinations for Mexican grapes is China.

Pacific Trellis launched a trial program with that country last year.

“It went fairly well,” said Abu-Ghazaleh.

The company shipped mostly red globes, but it also has seen an interest in flames and sugraones. Pacific Trellis plans to increase exports to China this season.

Stevco also ships to China, but volume is shrinking as Chinese production of red globes increases, Lane said. The company ships mostly seedless varieties to that nation.

There is potential for thompson, sugraone and red globes in China, Suarez said, but shipping there can be risky, since a trip can take up to four weeks.

“That’s a long time,” he said, so starting with good grapes that are packed right is imperative.