"The challenges include timing, getting them picked, packed and making the airport in time," Benedetti said. "With bioterrorism threats, the airlines are more stringent on receiving the fruit, and there is more congestion on freeways."
The report notes some growers are "nervous about the risks of disease or pest infestation that return [international] flights might bring." Mexicana encountered considerable resistance from the agricultural community, for example, before getting assurances there would be adequate safeguards against pests.
The percentage of farm exports transported by air remains small compared with other transportation modes. In 2004, for example, airborne shipments amounted to just 6.4 percent of the $10.4 billion value of all agricultural products exported from California.
Among the most striking statistics in the report is the surge in airborne shipments of the state's agricultural products to China since it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
Over the next three years, the state's airborne agricultural exports to China soared from $3.1 million in 2001 to $94.4 million last year, a thirtyfold increase.