COACHELLA, Calif. — Grape production in Mexico and the Coachella Valley started slowly but should finish by early July with greater-than-typical volumes.
Shipments out of Mexico totaled about 5.7 million boxes through the first week of June, down from 7.4 million the year before, said Atomic Torosian, managing partner at Fresno-based Crown Jewels Produce.
Coachella had picked and packed 1.5 million, down from just over 2 million, he said.
“The crop is a little lighter out of Coachella and Mexico than they thought,” Torosian said June 4.
“We’re behind in both locations, but prices are not as strong as they were last year at this time.”
In Coachella, most growers started production around May 13; some were as early as May 1.
“Coachella volumes have been fairly slow coming off,” said Rick Paul, table grapes category director at Bakersfield-based Sun World International LLC.
“About 22% of the crop has been harvested thus far (June 3). Flames are coming off at a good clip, but on the sugraones, we’ve been fighting sugar. We’re not sure why they’re coming off slower than the flames, but it’s not the first time.”
A late influx of Chilean crimsons discouraged production in Mexico and Coachella, said Steve Root, president and chief executive officer of Coachella-based East West Unlimited LLC.
But by June the pace was picking up, just as California’s Arvin district was about to come online.
“It’s going to be a train wreck,” Root said June 4. “Mexico is picking 270,000 to 300,000 flames per day. They have 18 to 20 million boxes (of grapes), and they’re just getting going. They’re not halfway done with their flames.”
“It will bottleneck until after Arvin, because Mexico will just be starting their superiors and sugraones,” he said. “They’ve got 4.5 million sugraones in Mexico, so they’ll be peaking in the first week of July.
"We’ll have quite a few here, too. Our late deal is a lot bigger than our early deal,” he said.
Arvin was expected to start June 24.
Jay Stover, salesman at Kingsburg-based Empire Grape Co. LLC, said the convergence won’t stop there.
“You’ll see Mexico, Coachella, Arvin and Fresno County grapes all by the first week of July,” Stover said. “It’s going to be interesting.”
“Coachella and Mexico totals will be fairly close to last year’s,” Paul said. “Between the two areas it was about 23 million boxes.”