Grape buyers don’t need to hit the panic button. California grape holdings are down compared with a year ago, but promotable fruit volumes will be shipped through early January.
One published trade press account said California grape volumes would finish at the end of November, but that is “hogwash,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission.
“Yes, we have fewer grapes in storage now than we did last year, but it’s what we were expecting,” Nave said. “We are expecting to be shipping into January as always.” Typically, about 46% of the California grape crop is shipped after Oct. 1, she said.
Through early November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that season-to-date truck shipments of central California grapes totaled 55.2 million 19-pound cartons, up slightly from 54.6 million cartons the same time a year ago.
The USDA’s Western Fruit Report indicated 13.2 million cartons of grapes in cold storage on Oct. 31, down 28% from 18.1 million cartons on hand the same date a year ago but similar to 13.56 million two years ago.
Nave said some later varieties of grapes were still being picked, with the harvest expected to conclude in early December.
At 115.6 million 19-pound cartons, the 2018 California grape crop was the second largest ever. The 2019 grape crop, estimated at 109 million cartons, is in line with the four years before the 2018 crop.
California grape shipments will continue into January, Nave said.
“We are definitely going to be promoting through December, and we will offer some promotions in January as well,” she said Nov. 7.
About 2 million cartons of California grapes are expected to be shipped in January, she said.
California grape prices reflect lighter inventories compared with a year ago.
Nov. 6 shipping point prices for California white seedless grapes, as reported by the USDA, were $22-27 per carton, up from $15-17 per carton a year ago. Red seedless California grapes traded at $20-25 per carton, up from $17-20 per carton a year ago.
While export sales to China are down, Nave said California grape handlers expect to export about 40% of their total crop again this year. Export markets will receive California grapes in December and January, she said.
Very light volumes of imported Peruvian grapes were reported in the U.S. in early November; those shipments will increase toward the year’s end.