( Courtesy Fresh Farms )

Grower-shippers of Mexican grapes say they expect to have ample supplies in the pipeline for their season, despite some rough weather during the growing season.

“An early spring frost damaged the earliest sprouting growth,” said Keith Wilson, owner of Dinuba, Calif.-based King Fresh Produce LLC. “The result was about 10% to 15% of the total crop.”

Plenty of grapes survived the cold and rain, however, and clients should have all the product they need available to them for springtime promotions, said Juan Laborin, director of the Hermosillo, Mexico-based Sonora Table Grape Growers Association.

“The weather has been nasty, rainy and cold, but a good crop is there, showing good quality and promotable volumes, so far,” Laborin said.

Related content: Mexican grape production down but promotable volumes will arrive early

Total volume in 2020 likely will be down about 20% from a year earlier — 19.7 million cartons, compared to 23.7 million in 2019, the association reported March 19.

The numbers were only preliminary estimates and could be adjusted about the time the first shipments out of Mexico move, in early April, Laborin said.

Nearly all varieties look to be down in 2020, according to the report. The forecast calls for 800,000 boxes of perlettes versus 1.7 million in 2019; 8.7 million red seedless in 2020 versus 10.8 million in 2019; mid-green, 4.2 million in 2020 versus 5.1 million in 2019; red globe, 300,000 in 2020 versus 307,000 in 2019; and black, 1.5 million in 2020 versus 1.9 million in 2019. 

The exceptions, with larger volumes expected this year over last, were early primes, at 2.8 million boxes versus 2.6 million in 2019; and “others”, 1.5 million versus 1.2 million in 2019.

“We had a good winter and a freeze, which had an impact on total production,” said John Pandol, director of special projects with Pando Bros. Inc. in Dinuba, Calif. 

The freeze was particularly hard on perlettes, Pandol said.

“We have little less bunches in the Guaymas area, but we’ll have plenty of those grapes,” he said.

The first grapes should ship out of Jalisco “near the first week of April,” and Sonora grapes should start to ship in early May, which would be normal, said George Matoian, who works in sales and marketing for Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Farms.

“The recent weather in Hermosillo has been a bit inconsistent, with cooler temperatures and cloudy weather, but the current long-range outlook is more of a normal weather pattern for the months of April and May, which should see some early harvest the first week of May,” Matoian said.

Related content: Jalisco deal offers early grapes

Fresh Farms, part of the Molina Group, sees a competitive advantage with some of its new production areas in Jalisco, Matoian said.

“This new growing area mimics the grape growing regions of Peru and Brazil, with a very temperate climate,” he said. 

“The Molina family has been experimenting with growing grapes in different regions of Mexico and have found that this special micro-climate in Jalisco is an ideal location for growing table grapes.”

Fresh Farms will harvest numerous varieties in Jalisco, including Ivory, Sweet Globe, Sugar Crisp, Great Green, Sweet Celebration and Cotton Candy, Matoian said.

“The Jalisco area will enable the trade to have fresh table grapes available which will only be a few days from harvest, as opposed to grapes from the Southern Hemisphere, which are usually many weeks or months old.”

The Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppenheimer Group is anticipating an early May start, which would be earlier than a year ago, said Marc Serpa, director of domestic grapes and sales manager.

“We anticipate good supplies through to June, despite the impact of the February frost on volume; this will provide ample promotional opportunities for Oppy’s popular grapes program, and we look forward to offering promotional volumes in the last week of May, with heavy volumes starting in June,” he said.

The first Hermosillo grapes should ship around May 10, Laborin said.

“We’re earlier than last year,” he said. “We have plenty of grapes to promote and are coming earlier than last year.”

This year’s crop is only small in comparison with a year ago, Pandol said.

“Last year was one of those years where everything was perfect, which was why we had such a monster crop,” he said. “This is kind of a medium-crop potential.”

The early part of the deal may suffer some, due to the frost problems, said Carlos Bon, sales manager with San Diego-based Grupo Alto and its marketing arm, Divine Flavor LLC.

“The crop looks to be on time but definitely short on the early part, as the weather events we had back in January and February caused problems in yields on the earlier varieties,” he said. “This goes for all growing areas in the state of Sonora.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of March 31, 18-pound containers of bagged special storage white seedless grapes from Chile were $34-36 for extra large; $32-34, large; and $30-32, medium-large. 

Prices on red seedless were $20-22, extra large; $18-20, large; and $16-18, medium-large. Black seedless grapes were $20-22, extra large; $18-20, large; and $16-18, medium-large. 

 
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