Strong demand greets Coachella, Mexican grapes

05/09/2012 10:59:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Shippers of grapes from California’s Coachella Valley and Mexico are expecting strong demand for high-quality fruit at the beginning of their deals.

Coachella-based Peter Rabbit Farms, Coachella, expected to start shipping perlettes and flames about May 10, but the company could wait until about May 14 if fruit wasn’t sweet enough, John Burton, the company’s general manager, said May 7.

Whether it’s the 10th or 14th, the beginning of the deal can’t come soon enough, Burton said.

“It’s a little later than we’d hoped. If we had product now, demand would far exceed supply,” he said. “The pipeline is completely empty, and clients are hungry for product. We’re getting call after call: ‘When are you starting, when are you starting?’”

On May 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $22-24 for 18-pound containers of extra-large seedless crimsons from Chile, up from $18 last year at the same time.

Robert Bianco, co-owner of Coachella-based Anthony Vineyards, said a few perlettes would begin shipping the week of May 7 from the Coachella Valley, with the majority of growers starting the following week.

Bianco also looked forward to a strong start to the Coachella deal.

“We expect a very hot market, especially on (green grapes),” he said. “(That market) should stay hot through May. There’s exceptionally good quality.”

Reedley, Calif.-based Pacific Trellis Fruit LLC expects to begin shipping Mexican perlettes the weekend of May 12-13, with flames following two or three days later, said Angie Eastham, sales manager.

By about May 28, Mexican volumes should start peaking, she said. Flames and other red varieties will be abundant this year, but Pacific Trellis is expecting sugraone volumes to be down about 20% and perlettes about 10-12%.

As with Coachella, demand for Mexican fruit is expected to be strong out of the gate, Eastham said.

“We’re basically going into the Mexican deal empty,” she said. “We’re a little late, so everybody’s chomping at the bit.”

The week of May 7 Burton reported better quality than last season and a size profile larger than Coachella shippers have seen in several years.

Sugraones would likely start shipping from Peter Rabbit no later than May 17, Burton said. The company’s black varieties are expected to begin about the same time.

For once, Burton said, the Chilean grape deal ended when it was supposed to, opening the door for Coachella. A U.S. marketing order prohibits the import of all Chilean grapes not graded U.S. 1 after April 10.

The Coachella deal has a good chance to generate strong demand through May, Burton said.

“If it’s marketed correctly, there could be real good pull through Memorial Day.”

With warmer June weather, volumes in Coachella will increase and prices will likely come down, Burton said.

Peter Rabbit’s Coachella volumes are expected to be similar to or slightly up from 2011, Burton said.



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