While exports account for a fairly significant part of Mexican grape growers’ volume, specific destinations can vary by season, depending on growing conditions in other countries.
Pacific Trellis Fruit, Reedley, Calif., for example, has shipped Mexican grapes to New Zealand, India, Indonesia and other countries, but shipments depend on “the opportunity at the moment,” which is affected by the relative price the company can get for the grapes in the U.S., said Dirk Winkelmann, international business development director.
“If the prices are equal, and there is good movement within the U.S. market, there will be less preference for exports,” he said. “If we can achieve a little bit of a differential in price to mitigate the additional risk of longer transit time, then we take a look at exports.”
Quality of the product available compared with quality the buyer demands is another factor producers must consider, as are the extra work involved in packing to order and the transit time from Mexico, he said.
In the end, Winkelmann said, it’s up to the packer and the receiver to determine whether exports are a worthwhile endeavor.
Export volume also depends on how quickly the Chilean grape deal winds down, said Jared Lane, vice president of marketing for Stevco Inc., Los Angeles. As long as Chilean crimsons remain in the market, there’s not as much of a demand for Mexican grapes.
Last year, MAS Melons & Grapes, Rio Rico, Ariz., exported 15% of its volume to New Zealand, Indonesia and Malaysia along with Thailand, Hong Kong and Central America, said owner Miguel Suarez.
He expects to export even more this year — up to 25% — and said, at one time, when he was exporting to England, he shipped 35% of his table grape volume abroad.
As Morocco and Egypt became bigger players, however, they pushed Mexico out of the picture by offering cheaper prices and better transit time.
Red globe grapes are by far the most popular variety that Stevco exports, Lane said.
The company ships about 80% of its red globes, which are in season from late June through July, to markets worldwide. Only about 20% stay in the U.S.
They’re shipped out of Long Beach, Calif., to places like the Pacific Rim and Eastern India.
In all, the company exports about 20% of its grapes — 30% if shipments to Canada are included.
Stevco exports table grapes in corrugated plastic boxes, Lane said. They’re more expensive than standard containers, but more can be stacked in a shipping container, and they hold up better in transit, he said.
Fresh Farms in Rio Rico exports about 10% of its volume, said Jerry Havel, director of sales and marketing.
“We’ve got an export program both to England and the Far East,” he said.
The firm ships perlettes, flames and black seedless grapes to England and red globes, sugraones and flames to the Far East, he said.
The company exports about 90% of its red globes.
“The people in the Far East love red globes,” Havel said. “They like them, and they’re used to them.”
Pacific Trellis also finds that red globes are a good export grape because they travel so well, Winkelmann said. The company exports some sugraones, as well, but finds that perlettes “are not very exportable.”
The fact that red globes hold up well “allows you to go into certain export markets — like some inland markets in China — that may not have the best cold chain,” he said.
“It’s definitely the dominant variety of grapes sold in Asia,” Winkelmann said.
Each buyer has his own specifications, Suarez said.
While U.S. buyers tend to make size a priority, export buyers prefer strong, sound fruit that will hold up well during transit.