Growing interest in Utah apples by Mexican consumers could boost the profits of orchardists in the state.

Kay Riley, a sales representative for Utah apple grower, buyer and shipper Muir-Roberts Co. Inc., said the development is welcome news for a fruit industry hit hard by the vagaries of climate this past year."The market is there. It's one of the most encouraging things in the apple industry, which has been generally overproduced," said Riley, whose company packs and sells apples from North Ogden and Payson.

Utah State University economist Larry Bond agreed, saying Mexicans are "just used to the apples that are more like Utah's."

"It looks like they want a considerable amount, so it's probably going to keep the prices firm . . . it's sort of a coup for Utah to be able to get this market," Bond said.

Riley said costly and frustrating inspection delays still have to be overcome, but despite those hurdles Utah freight lines into Mexico have opened good export opportunities.

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News of Mexican interest in Utah apples was one of the high points in this year's agricultural forecast, sponsored by Utah State University and the Utah Bankers Association.

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