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Fresh Farms increases Prime Seedless production

Fresh Farms in Nogales, AZ, is a major distributor of fresh table grapes from Mexico, and the company’s grape program continues to grow on a steady basis, according to Jerry Havel, director of sales and marketing.

The Molina Group in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, which owns Fresh Farms, is one the larger grape growers in Mexico, growing a wide assortment of fresh table grape varieties such as Perlette, Flame, Sugraone, Red Globe, black seedless and Summer Royal.

“The Molinas continue to grow their program, and they have taken some grapes out and put some other grapes in,” Mr. Havel said. “All in all, I think they will be up maybe 5-10 percent” over what they would have had in a normal year in 2012. As it happens, 2012 was not a normal year, and actual production came in under expectation so the actual increase this year over last will be greater than that. In any case, I think we will have an ample supply of grapes” in 2013, “and that program is continuing to grow,” he said.

07-MexGrapes-FreshFarms-JerJerry HavelMuch of the growth is in the Prime seedless variety, an Israeli grape variety that is being grown as an alternative to Perlettes. Prime seedless is a large green seedless grape that comes off early, about the same time as Perlettes. Although the Molinas have reduced their Perlette acreage, they are currently growing both Primes and Perlettes. But “I think [the Prime seedless] is going to end up being more popular” than the Perlette because of its larger size and superior taste, Mr. Havel said.

The company’s producing acreage of Flames, Sugraones and black seedless varieties remains about the same as last year, he said.

For Fresh Farms and for the industry, the 2013 crop will be larger than the prior year, but it will start a little later than normal, with lighter volume in May and abundant supplies in June, Mr. Havel said. “We will be encouraging people to promote in the month of June, not in the month of May.” Volume will come on just a little too late in the season “to hit a memorial day ad” or “to get a promotion going for the month of May. But June will be another story.”

Fresh Farms’ latest major grape variety is the Red Globe, which generally runs from around June 10 or 15 to July 10 or 15, he said. “We will have both an export and a domestic program for Red Globes.”

The Molinas pack grapes on four different ranches in Sonora. The earliest and farthest south is in Guaymas, typically followed by the Las Mercedes ranch in Pesqueira north of Hermosillo. Next to start is a large vineyard near the Sea of Cortez in the coastal area west of Hermosillo. In between those two, also in the Hermosillo area, is a ranch called Don Roberto, which is typically “the last ranch off,” he said.

The Guaymas property is the newest and it is “continuing to mature and develop and produce quite a few grapes,” Mr. Havel said. “We are getting to the point where they are putting out a lot of grapes,” particularly the Prime Seedless variety. “We have Primes early from Guaymas” as well as early Sugraones, he said.

The Fresh Farms grape program consists strictly of Mexican grapes grown by the Molinas and runs just from May through mid-July, he said. However, “the Molinas own Visalia Produce [in Kingsburg, CA], so they have a program with grapes that lasts much longer than Mexico. They go all the way through the California season, and that ends in December.”