The California table grape season is now in full stride and growers across the San Joaquin Valley are busy harvesting and shipping grapes. A lot of these grapes are sold domestically, but there is also a significant export market, with California grapes found in many parts of the world, including Southeast Asia.
Sutherland S.A. Produce, which began its California grape exports this season during the last week of May, says growing conditions have not been perfect, but there have been no issues as they progress through their varietal line up.
Team members inspect Sweet Sapphire; on the right - Candy Dreams
"A few of our growers were hit by hail in the Southern San Joaquin region," said Rick Chong of Sutherland Produce. "The impact was not significant and growers will be okay. Presently we are exporting - Sweet Sapphire, Midnight Beauty, Sweet Globe, Candy Heart, Candy Dreams, Sweeties, and Ivory. For the remainder of the season, we will shortly have - Smiling Buddha Pristine, Autumn Crisp, Jack's Salute, Sweet Celebration and more."
Strong brand and quality fruit smooths challenges
The China-US trade war has been well documented, with much of the heat being absorbed by the US fresh produce industry. Exports have been affected, but this also depends on how well established some growers have been in the market. Sutherland Produce specializes in exporting its fruit to the entire region, and its brand presence as well as the quality of the fruit has been key to maintaining its position in the market, according to Chong.
Ivory (left), and Pristine grapes.
"We are luckier than most," he noted. "Our Smiling Buddha label maintains a pretty high position throughout Asia with our cherry and grape exports. With that, our customers support us really well. Demand strengthens with the quality of the varieties that are harvested in California. We are now getting into the demand phase of our summer line up. These are the varieties being either standard or specialty that will be exported in high volume. We are very fortunate to have so many loyal customers throughout South East Asia, Mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia."
Last season, the company placed more focus on Korea, which it says has seen strong growth as a result. Again, the quality of the fruit has been cited as a catalyst to this success. "Last season we focused more on Korea and that business has really taken off," Chong shared. "Because we have some of the best green seedless grapes on the planet - Smiling Buddha Pristine, Autumn Crisp, Sweet Globe, Timpson, Ivory, and have the volume we do, it's a slam dunk. We pack our grapes into bags or clamshells for retail or our ecommerce customers."
Midnight Beauty, and Candy Heart
Hopes for US-China trade tension to ease
Sutherland S.A. Produce believes the trade tension between the United States and China will ease. The company is hopeful because it has many customers in China who are eager to import California grapes.
"China sales have been impacted by the US/China trade war, but we are optimistic this will be resolved soon," Chong concluded. "China is our biggest trading partner and our clients are waiting with mouth-watering anticipation for sweet California grapes!"
For more information:
Sutherland S.A. Produce, Inc.
Ph: +1 (403) 616-1977