When it comes to ordering table grapes, it seems that buyers are more interested in quality and price than country of origin, grower-shippers say.


For Mexican grapes, there’s one more consideration — the first-of-the-season factor.


Some customers may be biased in favor of U.S.-grown product, but Dirk Winkelmann, international business development director for Pacific Trellis Fruit, Reedley, Calif., said he was not aware of any off-hand.


“I don’t know if there is concern about Mexican quality versus U.S. quality,” he said.


Each grower-shipper-importer monitors quality in the field and what they’re receiving and selling, he said.


Typically, there’s a range of quality available, and shippers must be diligent to be sure they send the right quality to the right customer.


“That’s something that we’re pretty strict about it,” he said.


Some chains only buy California grapes. Others buy from whichever growing area provides the best value, and others load out of Mexico because it’s more convenient or offers cheaper freight rates, said Jared Lane, vice president of marketing for Los Angeles-based Stevco Inc.


“From a quality standpoint, I believe the quality of Mexico compared to Coachella is very similar,” he said.


Relationships also are an important factor, added Bill Sykes, president of The Sykes Co., Nogales, Ariz.


“You develop relationships over the years with your customers,” he said. “They depend on you.”


Sykes has been in the business for 32 years, and he’s been dealing with some of the same growers in Mexico for 28 years, he said.


He also has many customers who have good reason to come back to his company season after season.


“You treat people fairly and give them very good product at a great price, and you make sure they don’t get hurt,” he said.