Early end in Mexico favors California grape shippers

06/11/2014 03:18:00 PM
Andy Nelson

An early finish in Mexico has California grape shippers licking their chops for the start of the 2014 season.

Visalia, Calif.-based Chuck Olsen Co. expects to begin harvesting in the San Joaquin Valley about July 1, said Jeff Olsen, the company’s president.

Olsen looks forward to strong demand out of the gate.

“Flames (from Mexico) are coming up a little shorter than anticipated, and the greens were short in the first place,” he said. “It feels like it should be a smooth transition.”

Red markets should be particularly strong at the beginning of the deal, Olsen said. Chuck Olsen Co. will start with flames before moving into summer royals, sugraones, princesses and other varieties.

The company expects higher volumes of scarlett royals, autumn kings and other newer varieties this year.

On June 10, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $18.95 for 18-pound containers of large seedless flames from Mexico, up from $14.55 last year at the same time.

Large sugraones were $15.95-16.95, up from $14.55-15.55.

Markets should remain fairly steady as Mexico yields to California, said Atomic Torosian, managing partner of Crown Jewels Produce, Fresno, Calif.

“Flame markets should stay pretty close to $18-22, and sugraones $16-18.95,” Torosian said. “It should be a pretty seamless transition.”

Crown Jewels plans to wrap up its Mexican deal earlier than usual. Mexican flames should wind down the week of June 16, with sugraones, flames and other varieties trickling in through the end of the month.

The company’s grower partners expect to begin picking flames in the Fresno area by June 24-25, with princess and other varieties following in mid-July, Torosian said.

An early start to the San Joaquin deal will help shippers move all of their fruit this season, said Olsen, who expects another big crop like last year’s.

He also hopes similarly good quality will provide a repeat of last season’s brisk movement.

“There were a lot of ads last year, and we moved a monstrous crop with decent f.o.b.s,” he said. “We should have similar volumes and similar quality this year. We had a really good set, we’re dropping a lot of bunches. We don’t foresee any major quality or size issues.”

The Fresno crop could be slightly bigger than last year, Torosian said, and good growing weather as of June 11 was about to get better, with temperatures in the low 90s forecast heading into summer.

“We’re looking forward to finishing in Mexico and getting going here,” he said.



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