( File photo )

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing some late-season relief for California grape growers. 

The USDA recently completed a purchase of more than 450,000 boxes of California table grapes as part of its tariff mitigation program, according to a news release.

“The 2018 season has been a tough one for table grape growers,” Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission, said in a news release. “The tariffs on table grapes have been painful but the real harm has been caused by the fact that tariffs on multiple competing commodities, such as cherries, stone fruits, and apples, caused more fruit of all kinds to be sold in the domestic market. The USDA purchasing program comes at a good time for table grape growers and is appreciated.”

China’s 53% tariff on California table grapes were the reason that the commodity was included in the tariff mitigation program and inclusion in the USDA Food Purchasing Program for the first time. 

Recent USDA data shows shipments of California grapes to China are down 42.2% in volume and 41.2% in value in 2018 compared to 2017, according to the release.

USDA trade date shows U.S. grape exports to China, from May through September this year, were $5.5 million, down 41% from a year ago. Total U.S. grape exports for the period were rated at $366 million, down 3% from the same period a year ago.

The grapes purchased by USDA will be distributed to food banks and other food programs around the country, beginning in December, according to the release.