Grupo Molina pioneers new state for Mexican table grape industry

June 12 , 2017

One of Sonora’s leading table grape growers has set up shop with new plantings in Tuxcacuesco, Jalisco, some 840 miles south of the major spring fruit growing area of Hermosillo. 

Grupo Molina’s new project has been developed over the last two years, and director Marco Antonio Molina tells Fresh Fruit Portal there are plans for it to reach 500 hectares in the next three years. 

This compares to the company’s existing 1,350 hectares in the state of Sonora, not far from the U.S. border with Arizona.

He claims this is the first commercial plantation of table grapes in Jalisco, and follows 10 years of trials in various states across the country.

“We were in the state of Campeche, but it’s very wet and there are a lot of hurricanes so it didn’t produce good results,” Molina says.

“We also trialed in Sinaloa but just like Campeche there was too much moisture and it didn’t give a good crop,” he says.

The executive adds the group also looked at the central state of Aguascalientes – where grapes are already grown – as an option, but it’s commercial window is more or less the same as California in August and September. 

Why Jalisco?

Molina says one of the reasons that prompted trials in Jalisco was the state’s connectivity with larger Mexican cities like Guadalajara (three hours’ drive), as well as its dry climate that is not so cold, allowing vines to bear fruit in April which is an attractive period for sales in the U.S.

“We produce from the end of April until the end of June, and with that we’re going to include the whole month of April in our production,” he says, adding the grower also 200 hectares of fields in California, allowing for the season to be extended until October. 

Another motivating factor has been water scarcity in the area of Pesqueira in Sonora where much of Grupo Molina’s production is concentrated. 

“There is very little water in the subsoil. It’s getting increasingly scarce, ever deeper, and that’s why we haven’t wanted to grow more there,” he says.

Tuxcacuesco is not exempt from similar problems, but Molina says there has been significant investment in the construction of water works to be able to channel water from a river. 

“There is not much water in the subsoil, the wells are very deep, and to avoid this problem we did some hydraulic works allowing us to take water from the river to our plantations, bringing the water up a hill.

Investment and varieties

Molina projects a total investment of US$25 million in the Jalisco project, including the hydraulic works, irrigation system infrastructure, vine infrastructure, nets to reduce luminosity and more.

“The issue of nets is very important as it allows us to save water and it gives better quality fruit, because logically the winds do less damage,” he says.

“In Sonora we’ve had very good results with the use of nets and in Jalisco we expect that close to 40% of fields will also use them.”

The company intends to plant varieties like Sugraone, Red Globe, Black Seedless and Summer Royal, while Molina also highlights optimism for the variety Cotton Candy

“This [Cotton Candy] a variety for which a lot of marketing is being done, as we already have production on the coast of Hermosillo, in Guaymas and now in Jalisco,” he says.

“I believe the conditions for the quality of grapes grown in Jalisco will be similar to what we have in Sonora. I think what’s really the driver is the variety.”

He estimates that by 2018 the Jalisco harvest could reach 350,000 boxes, although once 500 hectares are planted that figure could rise up to 10 million boxes.

He says while the production area will have an attractive commercial window for the U.S. market, the domestic market is attractive too with consumption reaching around 1.5 million boxes per month.

“We’ll send the fruit to the national market and to the U.S., but also as a group we are working very heavily on Canada.

“As volume grows, surely we’ll think about farther-away markets like China.”

Related story: New varieties to buoy Mexican grape exports in 2017

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