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MAS expansion boosts winter deal

Tad Thompson

MAS Melons & Grapes LLC, because of expanding programs “we are having one of our busiest seasons,” said Miky Suarez, the Nogales firm’s managing partner.

“Normally in the winter, we only handle honeydew, watermelon and mini-watermelon from Colima and Nayarit. But now we have soft squashes and cucumbers from Angostura, Sinaloa.”  Angostura is located about halfway between Sinaloa’s growing districts of Las Mochis and Culiacan. This began in mid-December and run to early spring.

Miky Suarez stands outside the Rio Rico, AZ, headquarters
of his firm, MAS Melons & Grapes LLC.

Suarez noted that MAS Melons & Grapes has traditionally been heavy to grape volume, “but now we are looking into other things, like vegetables,” in addition to ongoing strength in melons. “We will grow at a steady pace.”

He acknowledged that “there are a lot of good people in town (Nogales) that also handle these” vegetable items. “We respect that. But little by little we have developed good relationships with our customers and our growers, and we want to take advantage of that.”

Suarez noted: “Over the last four or five years from Hermosillo we’ve handled small volumes of soft squash.” But in Sinaloa this winter, “this is totally new for us, with Italian, yellow and grey squash, and the cucumbers. Now we have a new grower and we have definitely increased our volumes. In the future we will probably add new things.

“So far, it’s been good. Now, we have very good market.”

Also this season, MAS’ Nayarit seedless and mini-watermelon program has significantly increased with a new grower.

This year the first time MAS is offering the Orange Candy melon variety. It was scheduled to come onto to the market about Jan. 25 and will be available perhaps as late as early March. The outside of the Orange Candy is like a smooth, bright yellow Canary melon, but more elongated. The inside is like a flavorful cantaloupe.   

The Nogales deal

It was a difficult end-of-fall season in Nogales, Suarez said. As the season moved into January, “there was still some inventory from the fall, but probably about Jan. 10 it started changing to a good market. And the quality of the product from Sinaloa on the Italian, yellow and grey squash has been very, very good. That helped a lot. So, for us, it’s been a good winter season so far.”

Suarez added that his watermelon quality “has been very good quality and the market is active, with good prices.”

The Nayarit and Colima honeydew deal began Jan. 18, “which was a little later than normal. Usually, it’s the last week of January. The mini-watermelon and seedless started in the first week of January, which is normal.

The markets

MAS’ transactions with retail buyers have been strong in the Covid crisis, and “we have had a lot of sales to wholesalers in the U.S. and Canada.” The wholesalers have purchased “a little bit of everything” from MAS.

Soft squash sales are especially strong to U.S. wholesalers.

MAS Melons & Grapes long ago established a strong export deal with Japan. That has continued this season, although the firm has backed off Mexican avocado exports.

“The fall season was very challenging because of big volumes and markets were difficult, with low prices. So, we have exported nothing in the last three months on avocados. There was too much supply.”

MAS has continued to export honeydew to Japan, with much less volume of watermelon crossing the Pacific. The honeydew sales came despite a “very, very difficult” logistics situation with containerships being delayed both to and from Japan, due to international trade disruptions caused by Coronavirus.

“Still, we exported good numbers, but we had a few problems. Some vessels took ten extra days to get there or were two weeks later than they should have been. That created some quality problems. But our customers in Japan understood what was happening. And it ended up being good.”

Mexican table grapes

January is an early time to begin discussing the Sonora grape deal, which will scarcely get underway by May.

But Suarez said this winter in Sonora was cool enough to provide needed chill hours for dormant grape vines. “So, look for a very good beginning of the grape deal, because of excellent chill hours. We should have a good crop.”

Suarez said if the weather is good, there is a potential to have mid- to upper-20 million boxes. Aggressive planting in recent years will have set up such a scenario for a ten-week deal.

Suarez is concerned about the possibility of such volume.

MAS procurement department

Suarez said that MAS’ new buying brokerage business, founded in September 2018, “is developing more business than ever.”



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