California grapes will be plentiful this fall, grower-shippers and marketers forecast.
“Looks pretty good to me,” said John Harley, vice president of marketing and sales for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Anthony Vineyards.
“There will be a lot of grapes, and quality is going to be exceptional.”
Triple-digit heat has gripped California through much of the summer, but it hasn’t bothered the grapes, Harley said.
“It’s not been all that bad; it’s been 104, 105 (Fahrenheit),” he said. “We don’t stress out until it hits 110-113. This is normal.”
Heat can take a toll on coloring, but growers have been able to cope with the situation, Harley said.
“That temperature doesn’t really hit until mid- to late afternoon, so it has curtailed some harvesting,” he said.
“The quality has been very nice. Barring any weather issue — if we don’t get a heat spike above 105 or if we don’t get any rain — the crop will be good.”
Statewide, table grape volume may see a year-on-year increase of 7% to 10%, but the increase appears to be even bigger at Delano, Calif.-based Columbine Vineyards, said Keith Andrew, sales manager.
“Looks like it’s going to be back to getting a good-sized crop for the industry, as well as us — about 25% increase from last year for our company,” he said.
The increase is attributed to various factors, Andrew said.
“We had better weather and had a lot of young vineyards last year that are more mature this year,” he said.
Prices should be acceptable, even with a larger take, Andrew said.
“I think prices will be good because quality will be good all the way through,” he said.
As of July 27, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 19-pound containers of bagged large and extra-large flame seedless grapes from California’s Kern district were $18.95-20.95. The price was unchanged from a year earlier.
The summer heat wave also influenced the crop in a positive way, Andrew said.
“Things caught up as the heat picked up,” he said. “Volume early on came off faster than last year. Right now, I’d say we’re ahead of picking last year, even though we started two days later.”
The market in late July was generally strong, Andrew said.
“It did get a little sloppy with some late carryover from Mexico and Coachella, but it’s cleaning up now,” he said.
Harvests in the Arvin and Delano areas of California started July 5 and will run nearly to Thanksgiving, Andrew said.
“We’ll finish selling somewhere between Christmas and New Year’s,” he said.
The Mexico and Coachella, Calif., harvests have come and gone, and the deal in California’s San Joaquin Valley was underway by late July, said Jason Fuller, sales manager with Bakersfield-based Sun World International LLC.
“Quality is excellent on varieties currently in harvest, with a positive outlook for late season varieties,” he said.
Starting in Mexico, harvesting has gone largely uninterrupted, Fuller said.
“A rain event hit Mexico (Hermosillo) in mid-June, with effects varying by region with little reported damage,” he said. “Aside from that, a hot summer has set up the coming of the late season harvest nicely.”
Sun World’s late season will kick off early September and last through December, Fuller said.
“Sun World will harvest historical volumes of late-season grapes this year, with the first commercial harvests of newly planted proprietary varieties,” he said. “Quality and promotable volumes look excellent.”
Yields have been consistent going back to last year, said Justin Bedwell, president of Madera, Calif.-based grower-shipper Bari Produce LLC.
“There was so much volume in the market,” he said. “I expect to pick up volume at the end of August.”
Statewide grape volume in 2017 was 109.1 million box units, worth $1.81 billion, according to the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission.
The top five export markets were Canada, Mexico, mainland China, Philippines, Taiwan.
Crop value was $1.81 billion.
The current estimate, from April 2018, is for 114.6 million 19-pound box units, the commission reported.