By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOTMuch to the delight of food shoppers, each April the first fresh bunches of red and green grapes start showing up in markets. Imported from Mexico, these succulent grapes are available from April through June, after which time the season begins to peak in California.
Grown in the hills surrounding Hermosillo, in the state of Sonora, this region prides itself on being Mexico’s No. 1 region for growing table grapes. There is mile after mile of vineyards operated by scores of growers, including Grupo Alta. Grupo Alta operates five fields in Sonora. Its 195 hectare (approximately 482 acres) field in Hermosillo produces a bountiful variety of table grapes including Perlette, Sugra One, Flame, Red Globe, Crimson, and Black Seedless.
On average, Alta yields between 2,000 to 4,500 boxes of table grapes per hectare, depending on the variety. Perlettes average up to 2,000 boxes per hectare; Flames about 2,200 to 2,500 boxes/hectare; and Red Globes, 4,000 to 4,500 boxes/hectares, reports Ing. Alan Ricardo Aguirre Ibarra, director general, Grupo Alta.
The grapes are packed in four different configurations. The Frigolit Box carries 9 kilograms of nine to 10 individual bags, resulting in 72 boxes per pallet. The carton box can hold 8.2 kilograms, also with nine to 10 individual bags, resulting in 90 boxes per pallet, or 20 pounds with four clamshell boxes of grapes for 75 boxes per pallet. Then there is the plastic box that weighs 9 kilograms and can hold 10 individual bags, resulting in 102 boxes per pallet.
Since table grapes are consumed fresh, the fields can be a busy place during harvest when some 1,200 workers arrive from Chiapas, Veracruz and other states in the southern part of Mexico to pick the crop. Harvest is determined mainly by the fruit’s appearance, including color, sugar content and size.
Because Grupo Alta is committed to the production of fruits under Good Agricultural and Manufacturer Practices, it guarantees product safety and quality in all its stages. Every handling system combines techniques that maximizes production, protects the environment and avoids toxic inputs through an integrated management plan. Consequently, the company is accredited by Organic Certification (QAI), EUREPGAP, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), USGAP, SENASICA (BPA, BPM), Mexico Calidad Suprema, Libre de Residuos Pesticidas, Kosher, Sustainable Guidelines, and Código de Conducta.
The company also participates in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), which requires a security profile on the company.
“This includes a risk analysis of all points considered critical,” states Ibarra. “The goal is to protect shipments against any abnormities. It requires reporting each trip time to the boarder in case trailers take too long to get there.”
The estimated travel time from Hermosillo, Sonora to Nogales, including check points, is 4.5 hours.
C-TPAT also requires security seals for containers from point of origin to final destination. “We must report if the seal is broken,” Ibarra says.
The Master’s TouchMaster’s Touch® and Frank’s Distributing of Produce LLC also offer signature brand table grapes for its approximate 791-acre vineyard outside of Hermosillo.
The Master’s Touch® group includes Mexican grower Agrobionova, S.A. de C.V.; distributors Bionova Produce, Inc. in Nogales, AZ; Bionova Produce of Texas, Inc. in McAllen, Texas; R.B. Packing of California, Inc. in San Diego, CA, and Frank’s Distributing of Produce LLC in Chulavista, CA. Regional distributors are Premier Fruits and Vegetables BBL, Inc. in Montreal, Quebec, and Premier Fruits and Vegetables (USA), Inc. in Philadelphia. Regional distributors source product from the company’s national distributors and other fresh growers and di