Up until May 23, only 728,000 boxes of Mexican grapes were harvested compared to 2,957,000 boxes harvested by May 23 of last year, a difference of more than two million boxes. Although harvest started about ten days ago, very little volume is available at the moment. “The start of the Mexican grape season has never been this late,” says Miky Suarez with MAS Melons & Grapes. “It won’t be until Monday or Tuesday of next week before our growers start harvesting,” he commented.
Weather conditions play a big role in the late start of the season. “In February, the weather wasn’t the best.” It was colder and windier than normal and there was some rainfall, which is unusual in February. However, new varieties are also causing a shift in the start of harvest. “New varieties are seeing a later start by nature,” said Suarez. “They are at least two weeks later compared to traditional varieties like Perlette and Flame that are gradually disappearing and being replaced by new varieties.”
Memorial Day shortage
“Right now, everybody is desperate for grapes.” Chile finished earlier and Mexico started late. “As a result, there are hardly any grapes available and there is a big, big shortage for Memorial Day. Grapes for Memorial Day should have been on their way to the East Coast now to be in stores on time, but it’s not going to happen this year,” said Suarez. The volume available is very minimal.
The late start could potentially create challenges at the back end of the season. In an average season, harvest ends the first or second week of July with very little fruit being moved in July. This year however, harvest is expected to continue until the middle of July, which increases the chance of being exposed to rains. “The rains typically start late June, but let’s hope they are delayed this year.”
For now, it is a waiting game, but June will be a big month for Mexican grapes. The initial industry forecast was a total production volume of 21.7 million boxes. “While this number may turn out to be a little shorter, there will be plenty of fruit available until the second week of July.” In an average year, Mexico’s late finish would result in an overlap with California production. “However, California will also start late this year, which is a good thing. It will give us time to move the Mexican volume before California starts.”