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Legislation creates challenges for California grape growers

Legislation creates challenges for California grape growers
Labor costs and water use. These are just two of the pieces of California legislation that could ultimately push up the price of California grapes. “One of the challenges we face is that the cost of doing business in California continues to escalate and will continue to escalate rapidly with quite a bit of legislation that’s already been passed that’s going to phase in over the next several years,” says Jim Beagle of Shafter, CA-based Grapery. “The biggest impact is the minimum wage legislation that’s going in over the next five years. The minimum wage is going up by 50 per cent so it’s going to drive all labor costs, not just minimum wage employees.”

In addition, the state’s recent water legislation also threatens to limit the water available to grow grapes. “And those are two of the primary and very large pieces of legislation that will have a significant impact on our cost structure,” says Beagle.

Prices could likely rise

In turn, this raises the competition with competing grape importing countries such as Chile, Peru, Mexico and Brazil. And even though supplies have been good this season for grapes, thanks to a dry fall which improved the storage conditions of late-season grapes particularly, Beagle stays focused on that likely rising costs to his business. “We have to be sure that we can put a product out on the shelf that consumers are going to want to buy at a price that they’ll want to pay for,” he says. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

New flavours to try
To help differentiate itself from the market though, Grapery has been working on a breeding program around the shape and flavor of the grapes. “We have a grape that tastes like cotton candy and we also have some unique shapes,” he says. “Flavor wise, something new this year is our Gumdrops and it’s a flavor you don’t expect in grapes. It doesn’t just want to make you eat healthy—you don’t want to eat candy bars or potato chips. It’s an amazing experience.”

While Grapery’s California grapes are generally available starting mid-July, the Gumdrops, Cotton Candy and other flavours likely won’t be available until mid to late August.

Jim Beagle
Tel : +1 661 979 0096
[email protected]