Coachella grape producers expect good volumes

04/27/2011 02:18:47 PM
Susie Cable

Of the 98.3 million boxes of fresh California grapes shipped in 2010, nearly 7 million were harvested from southeastern California, where the state’s early production occurs.

Coachella grape growers in April said they look forward to a good season with high quality and strong demand. The season normally runs for mid-May to mid-July. In April, the crop was set and progressing normally, said John Harley, sales manager for Anthony Vineyards, Bakersfield, Calif.

The weather had been good for growing, with daytime temperatures of 85-90 degrees, and nighttime temperatures in the 50s and 60s. The cool weather help protect the crops from pests.

“The cold weather is a good thing in the desert,” Harley said. “The pests that would have damaging effects (on the grapes) can’t take the cold weather.”

Cold weather during the winter allowed the vines a good period of dormancy. Coachella-based Peter Rabbit Farms’ vines looked good with good bunch counts, John Burton, general manager.

“As long as the weather is decent, we expect a good harvest,” Burton said. “We’ll be about average or slightly above average (on volume) as long as we can hang as many bunches as we see.”

Sun World International LLC, Bakersfield, markets organic and conventional varieties of grapes from Mexico and the Coachella Valley.

Crops in Hermosillo, Mexico, were damaged and slowed by an early February freeze, said Gordon Robertson, senior vice president of sales and marketing. The company’s volume of organic grapes is expected to be about 50% less out of Mexico because of the freeze.

Robertson said prices will likely be higher on organic grapes, but Sun World expects strong demand.

The Coachella Valley also was hit by the freeze in February, but grapes didn’t appear to suffer much, grower-shippers said.

Mecca Calif.-based Richard Bagdasarian Inc.’s vines received some slight damage, but president Nick Bozick said he doesn’t expect it to affect overall volume. Anthony Vineyards’ Coachella grapes were not damaged, Harley said.

Stevco Inc., Beverly Hills, Calif., is expected to have good quality grapes and bunch counts this season.

“We should have a very good selective process in selecting the best bunches,” said Dave Clyde, sales mager.

For the first time, Bagdasarian will offer organic grapes, including sugraones and two proprietary red varieties, Bozick said. Bagdasarian expects to ship at least 50,000 boxes of organic sugraones and 20,000 boxes of an early proprietary variety red grape and a late proprietary variety red grape. The reds are expected to be available in late May.

Sun World plans to test market a high-end pack of Superior Platinum grapes as part of a multitiered marketing strategy, Robertson said. Grapes packed with that label will be the best in size and overall appearance, and they will be only a small percentage of the crop.

“Open the box and it’s perfect,” Robertson said.

Superior Platinum grapes will ship from Coachella in 18-pound boxes with specially designed graphics. The pack is expected to sell for significantly more than the market price for less-perfect grapes.



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