California grape growers oppose extension for Chile

05/07/2010 02:42:43 PM
Tom Burfield

At the risk of sounding callous, table grape growers in California’s Coachella Valley generally opposed extending the timeframe during which Chilean growers could ship many of their grapes to the U.S. this season.

Growers requested the extension to compensate for shipments missed because of the Feb. 27 earthquake. The U.S. Department of Agriculture declined.

Drake Larson, partner in Drake Larson Sales, Thermal, Calif., felt so strongly about the matter that he sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack making his opinion known.

“I really feel for the people of Chile,” he said, but grapes there could have been damaged or coolers could have lost power after the quake, resulting in product with “rot and decay” arriving for U.S. consumption.

A coalition of companies, retailers, marketers, port authorities and even the International Longshoreman’s Association petitioned the secretary to extend the time period many grapes could be shipped to the U.S. for up to 20 days beyond the April 10 cutoff date designated by the California Desert Grapes marketing order.

Chile can ship grapes after that time, but they must meet U.S. No. 1 Grade standards.

“We were unable to find sufficient evidence that maintaining the inspection requirements of the marketing order would cause disruption of the orderly marketing of table grapes,” according to a release from the USDA.



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