Grape supplies in North America are transitioning to California’s San Joaquin Valley.
“We’re transitioning from the Mexican crop and it looks like things are running about 10 days ahead of last year,” says Art Fringer of Mirabella Farms based in Fresno, California. He notes that the area has had more normal to slightly warmer weather which is conducive to good production. “It hasn’t been too hot, unlike that extreme heat we had last summer. So the plants are able to rest at night with the cooler nights and then grow vigorously during the day. The vines are very healthy and the crop looks good,” he says.
These green seedless grapes will be harvested in the next 12 days.
He notes that the crop, which is roughly the same size as last year, will provide ample supplies of good quality grapes. “The berry size on the grapes right now is larger than normal so we’re going to be able to deliver consistent sizing to consumers along with what we believe is a great-tasting product. Out of the gate, we’re going to have high sugars in the product,” says Fringer.
Coachella finishing as well
Coachella, California is also still producing grapes right now but wrapping up production rapidly. “This is really the transition week where more people are getting into harvesting grapes in the San Joaquin Valley and with just about everybody going by next week,” adds Fringer.
Meanwhile, the crop is coming into strong demand. “Most retailers are looking forward to the California crop. They believe they’re going to get more consistent sizing and a higher-quality grape. So there’s good strong demand going into the season,” says Fringer, noting that consumers continue to look towards the newer varieties of grapes that offer great eating quality and big berries. And given the stretch on consumers’ wallets these days, consumers are also going to be very selective with what they purchase. “It’s going to be important that we deliver value to the customer for the near future---that value being great quality at a reasonable price,” he says.
So with stronger demand meeting that size of a crop, prices are expected to be slightly higher this season.
Yet with moving the crop, Fringer notes that the ports could continue to be a challenge this season when exporting grapes. “California has recently changed the way independent contractors are defined and we believe that’s going to take several trucks off the road. It could be working with the ports and moving product into the ports is more difficult,” he says. “It’s also just going to drive the freight cost up.”