“We typically ship about 45% of the crop in October, November and December, and we’re on track to do that this year as well,” Kathleen Nave, president of the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission, said Oct. 14. “It’s going to be either the biggest crop we’ve ever harvested, or the second biggest crop. We’ll have plenty of fruit for consumers through the holidays and into the New Year.”
“We have perhaps a few less grapes than we did last year,” said John Pandol, special projects director for Delano-based Pandol Bros. Inc. “But we will go harvest almost into Thanksgiving and we will be shipping probably right into mid-December for Christmas ads.”
“We’ll probably have a little less after Christmas than we did last year, but there are still plenty of California grapes to go,” he said Oct. 19. “We’re probably 75% picked and 65% shipped at this point.”
California’s warm winter brought more fruit on early this year. Coachella Valley, where the deal started, produced about 500,000 more boxes than in 2013. In the San Joaquin Valley, harvesting started two weeks sooner than usual.
But not every variety has flourished. The state’s three-year drought is taking a toll on growers, who have had to rely on groundwater.
“Two weeks ago compared to the previous year, we were seeing red globes off about 45% in inventory,” Jim Llano, account manager for Delano-based Castle Rock Vineyards, said Oct. 15. “The industry is still producing volumes similar to where we have been in the last two or three years. But it depends on variety.”
Water availability explains some of the scattered effects, Llano said.
Another such effect is smaller sizing.
“You’re seeing that across agricultural commodities throughout the entire produce industry, whether it’s citrus or, earlier, tree fruit,” he said. “It varies from company to company and ranch to ranch. It’s something we’re all dealing with.”
“There’s a lot of concern about the impact of the drought on the vine,” Nave said. “We’re hoping for a very wet winter to replenish everything. It’s all field dependent. Some growers would say they’ve had some impact, but for the most part quality and size speak for themselves. They’ve been there all season.”
Shipping prices for some varieties increased in recent weeks. Large autumn kings, for example, went from $16.95 on Sept. 29 to $20.95-22.95 on Oct. 20 for a 19-pound box, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.