US (CA): Grape volumes steady, sizing could be down

Volumes of harvested grapes in California this season appear to be on track to match last season's production. While this year's season is tracking ahead of previous the season, the difference is not significantly large. But less available water could have an effect on sizes, especially as growers get into the latter part of the season.

“We're still ahead of last year,” said Kathleen Nave, President of the California Table Grape Commission. “We're about two-million boxes ahead, but we're anticipating about the same-sized crop as last year.” Grapes will be shipping well into January of 2015.

But sizing could be an issue this year, as the lack of water has taken a toll on late-variety grapes.

“A lot of people have to go to well water, and I've been hearing there are some nutrient issues with well water,” said Brian LaForest of Molly's Sun Select. “I've heard from some growers that reservoir water is a little better, so that may have an impact on the overall growth of berries. The early stuff didn't show as much, but there's the feeling that sizing could be less consistent on later varieties.” He noted that prices have been good this season, as there's less demand for lower-priced grapes.

“There seems to be more demand for higher-quality fruit,” explained LaForest. “People are recovering from the economic downturn, and they have more discretionary income. So there's a big push from retailers to show consumers that you get what you pay for. So consumers are now willing to pay for quality products.”

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