Coachella grapes starting early

04/21/2014 04:45:00 PM
Mike Hornick

Most table grape growers in California’s Coachella Valley will start production around April 28, about two weeks earlier than usual.

“Everything is earlier in California this year due to the lack of winter rain and cold weather,” said Rob Spinelli, salesman at Bakersfield-based Anthony Vineyards. “There are some blacks and red globes out there, but the majority of the crop is sugraones and flame seedless.”

“The volume on the whole crop is up a little,” Steve Root, president and chief executive officer of Coachella-based East West Unlimited LLC, said April 21. “We should get 4,000 or 5,000 (boxes of) flames this weekend.”

East West Unlimited expects to start harvesting April 24 on flames, perlettes and summer royals.

Those will be hitting the supply chain at a time when Chilean grape prices are higher than last year. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture expects movement of Chilean grapes to decrease.

Thompson and crimson grapes, both seedless, imported from Chile through Los Angeles were $26 to $28 for 8.2-kilogram containers of bagged fruit April 14, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A year ago, thompson seedless shipped for $20 to $22.

“We’re probably just lucky that Chile doesn’t have a lot of grapes around,” Root said. “We don’t know how much they have. But we’re lucky the prices are high when we start instead of the market being flooded.”

Coachella is a desert growing region, but growers there say water is plentiful for this season despite the state’s drought, which has hampered some crops and acreage in the San Joaquin Valley.

To the north, an early start is expected as well for the next grape deal. “Everything is just pushed forward,” Root said.

“Bakersfield and the Arvin district, which usually start around July 4, will probably start the last week of June,” Spinelli said. “It will probably be an easy transition.”

Organic grapes are more of a priority this year, he said.

“Anthony Vineyards will start organic grapes the week of May 5 out of Coachella on the flames, and May 12 on sugraones,” Spinelli said. “That’s important because the industry hasn’t had much volume coming in on the organic grapes. It’s wanted. People are looking forward to it.”

In Mexico, the Hermosillo Grape Growers Association plans to release its 2014 crop estimate April 25.



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