Desert grape crop could approach record level

05/07/2014 04:01:00 PM
Jim Offner

Nick Bozick and Franz De KlotzCourtesy Richard BagdasarianNick Bozick (left), president of Richard Bagdasarian Inc., and Franz De Klotz, managing partner, show off early flame seedless grapes. Bozick says the company's grapes are two weeks early this season.Coming off a record year, California’s table grape production is already off to a fast start again, according to growers and shippers in the Coachella Valley.

“We’re two weeks early,” Nick Bozick, president of Mecca, Calif.-based Richard Bagdasarian Inc., said April 12.

The desert grape deal typically doesn’t get underway until about May 1, concluding in mid-July.

Other growers estimated their crop was similarly early.

Shipments began in earnest in the last week of April.

Suppliers said their product would hit the market at a good time, too, with Chilean shipments concluded April 10. Those suppliers said the last of Chilean product, from a practical standpoint, would be cleared out by early May, just in time for their first shipments.

Bozick was not yet counting on any of that, though.

“So far, the market looks pretty good, but until we start shipping and customers run out of Chilean fruit, it’s a lot of talk. There’s still fruit around,” he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 8.2-kilogram containers of bagged thompson seedless grapes from Chile were $26-28 f.o.b. for extra-large; $24-26, large; and $22-24, medium, as of April 18.

A year earlier, the same product from Chile was $20-22, extra-large; $18-20, large; and $14-16, medium.

Most growers planned to hit the markets with perlettes, then move into flames and scarlet royals, blacks and sugraones.

“Some vineyards are spotting, but all in all, it’s going to be a good-quality crop,” said Drake Larson, owner of Thermal, Calif.-based Drake Larson Sales.

Anticipated volume from the desert is 6 million to 7 million cartons, grower-shippers said.

Growing conditions have been ideal, they said.

“The weather has been outstanding,” said Rob Spinelli, salesman with Bakersfield, Calif.-based Anthony Vineyards.

California logged a record year for table grape production in 2013, according to the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission.

California shipped a record volume of 117.4 million boxes (116.2 19-pound box equivalents), with a total crop value of $1.7 billion, the commission reported. The desert season kicks off the state’s production year, which runs through February.

The commission said California produces 99% of the commercial fresh grapes grown in the U.S.

“Over the past 10 years the volume has significantly increased,” Kathleen Nave, the commission’s president, said in a news release.


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