Demand, quality expected high

05/01/2009 01:42:29 PM
Andy Nelson

Grower-shippers and officials are looking forward to strong demand for a high-quality Coachella grape crop.

Demand for Coachella-grown green grapes in particular should be extremely high thanks to an early end to the Chilean green deal this season, said John Burton, sales manager for Coachella, Calif.-based Peter Rabbit Farms.

“It will probably be a higher start than last year,” he said. “I think the pipeline will be empty.”

With the right retail support, and a well-orchestrated end to the Chilean deal, demand should be strong, agreed Steve Root, president and chief executive officer of East West Unlimited LLC, Coachella.

“The market should be good,” he said. “It’s been good all the way through on the Chilean deal.”

East West looks forward to good quality and size profile on flames, perlettes and early blacks, which should begin shipping May 8-11, and on sugraones and thompsons, slated for the end of May, Root said.

With the exception of perlettes, most varieties will ship through the end of the deal, sometime around July 4, Root predicted.

The size of the 2009 Coachella crop will likely be similar to last year, when about 6.5 million boxes shipped, said Rick Paul, table grape product manager for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Sun World International LLC.

Some early shipments could be on the light side, but by June production should be back to normal, he said.

Sun World expects to begin shipping flames and sugraones about May 12 and black seedless May 20-22, about right on time, Paul said.

Flame markets will likely be more in the average range, Burton predicted, thanks to abundant late-season shipments of Chilean red varieties.

Taste, however, could jump-start even red markets, Burton said.

“People may be tired of old grapes that have sat on shelves for two months,” he said. “Once they taste (new-season Coachella product), the transition will be a swift one.”

Based on the success of its South American counterpart, the Coachella deal could get off to a robust start, Paul said.

“The Chilean deal is generally considered to be very successful to date,” he said.

The key for the transition is quality, Paul said. And the Chilean product has been high-quality thus far.

“Volume isn’t as much of a concern as quality,” he said. “Poor quality clogs up the pipeline. If it’s good-quality product, it should clean up nicely.”

Drake Larson Sales, Thermal, Calif., expects to begin marketing product the week of May 11, said Drake Larson, partner. The company’s Coachella deal will likely wind up about July 10.


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