A month after an earlier-than-usual start, Stevco’s San Joaquin Valley table harvest had progressed to the Princess and Flame Seedless varieties.
The grower-shipper, which has operations headquartered in Coachella, Bakersfield, Delano and northern Mexico, began the San Joaquin Valley season on June 17, picking Sugraones, followed a week later with the first Flame Seedless grapes.
Jared Lane, vice president of marketing, expects to finish the Princess and Flame Seedless by the end of July before moving on to Scarlet Royal.
Following last year’s record production of 117.4 million 19-pound boxes from all California regions, Stevco’s southern San Joaquin Valley yields have been coming in about 10 percent to 15 percent lower than average, Lane reports.
This follows good yields earlier in the season in the Coachella Valley, he notes. “There, as in our San Joaquin Valley fields, the fruit ripened quickly,” Lane says. “But, the Coachella production didn’t vary as much from one field to another as they have here in the Bakersfield area. However, we think yields will be normal for our later varieties.”
So far, size, color and sugar levels of the early San Joaquin Valley varieties have been good, he adds.
Meanwhile, above-normal prices reflect continued strong demand for table grapes.
“This year’s Mexico deal cleaned up quickly as did the Coachella crop,” Lane says. “And, the transition in sales from there to the San Joaquin Valley has been extremely smooth.
“We’re very happy with the prices we’re getting for our table grapes.”
These prices help reduce the impact of sharply higher water costs this season – as much as four times above last year levels – and rising costs of labor, he notes.
“Getting the quality of labor needed to harvest the crop is a challenge every year,” Lane says. “The availability of water this season varies depending on the location. Some growers have had enough water for their crop. However, quite a few haven’t been able to meet the needs of the vines.”
Typically, the San Joaquin Valley table grape harvest, which represents the bulk of California’s production, extends into early November.