The harvest of table grapes in northern Mexico has begun, in Hermosillo and Guaymas in the state of Sonora. The first grapes crossed the border into Nogales, AZ ten days ago, May 9. The start date is similar to last year, but it’s a few days later than the average May 5 start. frontier right now are the Early Sweet variety,” says Miky Suarez of MAS Melons & Grapes. “It’s a good variety for the region.”
In the past, the early varieties crossing the border were a combination of Early Sweets and Perlettes, but the volume of Perlette keeps dropping. If the Perlette variety tends to disappear, it is because of the manual work involved in pruning the bunches. “Bunches have to be cut by hand and cut 500 to 600 small pieces of fruit until there are 100 left on the vine, labor intensive and expensive,” Suarez commented. “It’s important to work with well-trained people to avoid over-thinning and under-thinning.”
The reason Perlette has lasted so long is that for a long time no other variety has matured so early. About eight years ago the Early Sweet variety entered the market and since then Perlette has been declining in volume. Last year, 700,000 boxes of Perlette crossed the Mexico-US border and Suarez believes the volume crossing this year could be 500,000 boxes at most. That’s a small number compared to Early Sweet which is expected to take a big leap to 4.5 million boxes.
Despite growing production figures for Early Sweet, traditional varieties still make up the bulk of the volume from Mexico. Flames are the largest variety, but Sugraones and Red Globes are also important. Last year, 60% of the grapes that passed through Nogales were traditional varieties.
The grape harvest in Mexico is expected to increase by 25% compared to last year. According to the Mexican Association of Table Grape Growers, exports will amount to 25 million cases this year. “It would be a record season, up two million boxes from the current record,” Suarez commented. “While that’s a big number, it doesn’t scare me too much as long as we have the full ten weeks to sell them. It is important to move the fruit as soon as possible,” he said. Currently, there are still fruits coming from Chile, but Mexico has to start. “June will be a very big month and we all have to be prepared. Let’s hope the California harvest doesn’t start too early. If we have two full weeks in July, everything will be fine, and I think it will happen. The first grapes for MAS crossed the border earlier this week, on Monday May 16.
From left to right Alfonso Ruysanchez Jr., Alfonso Ruysanchez Sr., Alberto Vanegas and Miky Suarez, visiting a vineyard in Caborca, Sonora.
The majority of MAS’ grapes are consumed in the United States and Canada, but the company also exports to the Caribbean Islands, New Zealand and Japan. “Every year, Japan increases its imports of grapes.” Despite shipping difficulties, MAS Melons & Grapes was able to continue with its export program, but the company was forced to ship from different ports due to large backlogs. “It’s a bit more expensive, but these alternate ports have proven to be more reliable, which is key.”
For more information:
MAS Melons & Grapes