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US (CA): Large table grape crop expected

With growers increasing grape yields, it's expected that this year's California table grape crop will hit the 100 million box mark. Dry spring weather also resulted in grapes that have retained their quality through storage.

“We're expecting to have the largest table grape crop ever shipped,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission. She added that this year's crop will likely reach 100 million boxes, a mark which the state's growers have neared in past years, but which would be the most ever grown and shipped in one season. But if the state's growers hit that mark, she noted, it will come as a result of a steady climb in production rather than a one-time bumper crop.

“Production for this year hasn't been that much higher than the three-year average,” she said. “It's just been growing incrementally, and we expect it to keep growing going forward because of increased production on existing acreage.” She added that, in addition to good volumes, prices have remained good throughout the season on the strength of robust demand.

“Demand has been excellent throughout the season such that prices have been very good,” said Nave. “That might have to do with other crops being short as well as some competing crops not doing a lot of promotions, but it's really been a combination of factors.”

One of those factors has been the quality of fruit, noted Nick Dulcich of Sunlight International in McFarland, California.

“In the past, demand has lulled around Thanksgiving, but we never felt that slowdown this year,” said Dulcich. Instead of a dip in sales between Thanksgiving and New Year's, sales have been strong throughout, something for which he credits the quality of fruit.

“When quality of product is good, the momentum is good,” he said. “That means that there's a pull from customers buying, because they don't have a bad experience with buying low-quality grapes.” That good quality, he noted, came from favorably dry conditions during spring.

“Fruit is usually not as good when you have a wet spring, but we had a dry spring, and that's been critical to having a healthy, storable crop,” said Dulcich. “So quality has been outstanding and all the feedback has been excellent.

Harvesting for this season's crop is slated to wrap up in the next few weeks, and shipments of grapes are expected to continue through January.

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