Mexico’s Sonora grape growers encourage promos with large crop

Mexico’s Sonora grape growers encourage promos with large crop

TUBAC, Ariz. — With a projected 25% increase in grape exports from Sonora, Mexico, this season, the message to importers and marketers is: get the word out and promote.

The annual Sonora Spring Grapes Summit on March 21 was in the U.S. for the first time, in a move to get more participation from retailers and others who will be doing those promotions, according to Sonora table grape producers’ association (AALPUM) director Juan Laborin.

“One of the goals was to have more distributors, and more buyers in the meeting,” Laborin said. “This is a marketing meeting. Sometimes we have technical meetings, but this is a commercial meeting, and we have a very nice response from distributors and buyers.”

Some retailers have rules against travel to Mexico, Laborin said, and the response was overwhelmingly positive, with an expected turnout of 100; the final tally at the event was 250, Laborin said.

The Sonora grape producers forecast an export crop of 22 million 19-pound  boxes, compared to a final 2018 packout of 16.37 million boxes.

“I think it’s a big number, and it’s not a number that’s easy to move, in time and at a fair price so that everybody makes money,” Laborin said. “I think it’s very important that everybody in the chain makes money: growers, distributors and chain stores. We’re also worried about the consumer because we want him or her to be happy whenever they buy grapes, at a fair price and with good quality.”

Total production of grapes in the state of Sonora is 26 million, so the majority is grown for export.

The varieties, projected volumes for this season (in 19-pound boxes), and the percentage change from last season’s final packouts are:

  • Greens — 4 million, 16% increase;
  • Flames — 10.6 million, 33% increase;
  • Sugraones — 4.3 million, 27% increase;
  • Red globes — 600,000, 3% decrease;
  • Blacks — 1 million, 21% decrease; and
  • Others — 1.5 million, 38% increase.

Total export packout from 2018 was 16.37 million, and in 2017, it was 21 million.

Marco Molina, chairman of the AALPUM board of directors, noted that the highest increase was seen in the “others” category, a sign that growers are trying newer varieties with different flavor profiles.

The significant increase in production estimated for this year is due mainly to poor growing conditions leading into the past season, when the grapes didn’t get enough chill hours in the winter, and not enough sunshine during the early growth period.

With most varieties shipping during week 23, Laborin said the key promotion period would begin at about week 21, in late May.

This year’s summit was significantly sooner in the season than previous grape summits, to avoid scheduling it during Holy Week/Easter, Molina said. With weather an unknown, it’s likely the association might have minor adjustments in the forecast in a month, Laborin said.

He said on March 21 the anticipated harvest start was in about six weeks.

Molina said if the earlier estimate holds true with just minor adjustments, the association will consider scheduling future summits at earlier dates as well.

The takeaway from the meeting, Molina said, is that Mexico’s grape production will be sufficient to support ads and promotions throughout the season.