Coachella Valley grape output expected off slightly

(Courtesy Couleur; Source pixabay; Graphic by Brooke Park)

California’s Coachella Valley grape output may slip in 2021, as bearing grape acreage has declined and the industry has consolidated, said George Tudor, president and owner of Tudor Ranch, Mecca, Calif. Production of grapes in the Coachella Valley this season could be about 2.1 million cartons, down from about 2.6 million cartons a year ago. “I think the front-end crop is definitely light, the middle crop is average, and the late crop is average to heavy,” Tudor said. Harvest may start about May 10 for Tudor Ranch, but that could change depending on weather in April. Extreme heat can delay harvest timing, he said. With peak shipments the first half of June, Tudor Ranch will have grapes through the Fourth of July holiday. Some shippers may have grapes through the end of July, Tudor said.

Mike Wallen, manager of Anthony Vineyards, Coachella, Calif., said the firm will have volume into July. “We put up the best package we can and see where we go,” he said. Some U.S. retailers will support U.S.-grown grapes over import supply, he said. The transition between Southern Hemisphere and Northern Hemisphere supplies could result in a gap, he said. Extreme heat and possible monsoon rains in July make grape shipments that month more challenging for Coachella Valley shippers.

An average to light bunch count was noted in late March, though it was too early in late March to say anything about crop quality, Tudor said. High winds may have damaged 2% to 3% of some vineyards, but the vineyards generally look good, he said in late March.

Losing volume and acreage

Over the past few years, Sun World has pulled out a significant amount of its grape acreage. While some of that land has been replanted, it is not yet producing a full harvest, Tudor said. 

In 2019, Sun World International LLC also announced the sale of its leased and owned California farming property to an investor group, which contracted with Sun Pacific to farm the vineyards under the name Famous Vineyards.

On March 31 of this year, Palm Desert, Calif.-based Sun World announced it will be acquired by Bridgepoint, an international private equity group. Bridgepoint will become controlling shareholder for Sun World, an international fruit genetics, R&D and licensing company, according to a news release.

In other news in the Coachella Valley, a private equity group bought all the farming assets of Mecca-based Richard Bagdasarian Inc. Bakersfield, Calif.-based Illume Agriculture has taken over the management of Bagdasarian Farms vineyards for the private equity group. With some acreage coming out in recent years, there could be less than 5,000 acres in the Coachella Valley deal now, compared with peak acreage of perhaps 18,000 acres 25 years ago.

Peak volume from the Coachella Valley was close to 13 million to 14 million cartons two decades ago, Tudor said. Beside Illume Ag, Tudor said there are four major players in the Coachella Valley, including Tudor Ranch, Anthony Vineyards, Castle Rock Farms and Delano Farms. The decline of the Coachella Valley deal over two decades may continue unless there is regional seasonal trade protection, Tudor said.

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