“You can start with a bunch with 1,000 berries and trim it down to 100 berries,” he said. “It’s costly, risky and time consuming.”
Growers must take in more money for them compared to other varieties if they are going to cover the added expense, he said.
Flames, on the other hand, are thinned using a chemical, and sugraones thin out themselves, he said.
“We decreased our (perlette) program about three years ago,” said Steve Yubeta, vice president of sales for Farmer’s Best International LLC, Rio Rico.
The company has kept its perlette volume consistent following the cutback, which Yubeta said “was not huge.”
Perlettes remain a good product for Farmer’s Best, he said, adding, “It depends on the season” and on how much volume Chile leaves in the market.
“Sometimes (perlettes) can be a valuable item. Some years it doesn’t seem to make a difference,” Yubeta said. “Either way, it’s costing us more money to get those boxes up here — it’s an expensive variety to grow.”
Before Chile started sending grapes to the U.S., growers could get $30-40 for a box of perlettes, Sykes said. “It was well worth the extra expense.”
Last year, in late May, 18-pound boxes of large perlettes from Mexico were fetching only around $14, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Sykes ships only 10% of the volume of perlettes today that he shipped five years ago.
“There just isn’t any point in it any more,” he said.