( File photo )

California’s Coachella Valley grape harvest is expected to begin between May 7-10, with crop prospects off slightly from a year ago.

Despite cool weather in parts of February and March, Nick Bozick, president Mecca, Calif.-based Richard Bagdasarian Inc., said April 19 that the crop on the vine looks good. Early Sweet green seedless varieties will start first, followed by flame seedless, he said,

“There is a shift to newer varieties and the crop is more of a medium crop rather than like the bumper crop of last year,” he said.

Fresh grape output from the 7,000-acre growing region could total 4 to 4.5 million 18-pound cartons, Bozick said, down from about 4.8 million cartons a year ago. Harvest may continue for Richard Bagdasarian through the middle of July, he said.

Richard Bagdasarian is growing several proprietary varieties and is the exclusive licensee of Sun World varieties in the Coachella Valley, he said, and is planting Sun World’s Midnight Beauty, Sable Seedless, Autumn Crisp and Sonera varieties. The company also is growing some Early Sweet green seedless, a proprietary variety from the Giumarra Cos. Other proprietary varieties finding favor among growers include the U.S. Department of Agriculture-bred Valley Pearl and the Ivory green seedless variety, he said.

Overall acreage for the Coachella Valley region is about stable, though the combination of rising minimum wage levels in California and competition from Mexico — with an official crop estimate of 15.85 million boxes this year and similar harvest timing to Coachella — is causing some growers to pull out, said Robert Spinelli, sales representative with Anthony Vineyards Inc., Bakersfield, Calif.

The early front of the Coachella Valley grape deal is lighter than normal because of inadequate chill hours, Spinelli said.

“For the earlier ground in Coachella, the crop is a little light but from midseason or later the crop in the Coachella Valley is perfectly fine and the yields should be okay,” he said.

After a couple of weeks of lighter than normal shipments, volume should be normal by the end of May, he said. The Coachella crop may reach about 4.5 million cartons.

He predicted harvest start for Anthony Vineyards would be about May 10. Organics represents close to half of the firm’s grape volume.

With few organic grapes in the market since December, Spinelli said demand for organic grapes will be strong and prices high at the start of the deal.

“We have been developing our organic acreage in the Coachella and San Joaquin Valleys for the past 10 to 12 years,” he said.

Varieties for Anthony Vineyards in Coachella include flame seedless, sugraones and the proprietary Gemma Rose red variety, he said.’

With Chilean grapes winding down, Spinelli said the market for early green seedless may be more active starting out than red seedless varieties.

Spinelli said there be some volume of grapes for Memorial Day from the Coachella Valley.

“From Memorial Day into June we will be rocking and rolling with promotable volume,” he said.

Spinelli said grapes from the San Joaquin Valley could start by late June or early July, close to the time Coachella will be winding down. The firm has both conventional and organic grapes from the Coachella Valley and the San Joaquin Valley growing districts, he said.

 

 

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