Cool weather has pushed California’s table grape growers far behind schedule with harvesting.
Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League, expects harvest to continue well past Thanksgiving.
But, the delay has an upside — some nice table grapes in supermarkets because the weather has enhanced size and flavor, which has in turn stimulated sales and pushed up the price of grapes to about a dollar a box more than last year.
“This year’s crop is looking very, very good,” says Dave Clyde, president of Stevco, Bakersfield, Calif., which grows and ships table grapes. “In general, everyone has nice grapes this year. If the weather holds and we can get all the crop off, the consumer will benefit by getting a high-quality product throughout the season.”
Growers are netting late season table grapes to protect them for fall harvest.
Stevco began picking July 13, starting with Sugarones and then Summer Royals, both of which are finished, followed by Princess. Harvesting of those grapes will continue for some time, Clyde says.
Harvest of Scarlet Royal and Thompson seedless began the second week of August.
“We’ll start really getting tonnage the third week of this month, when we continue picking Thompsons and Scarlets and start Sweet Scarlet, Crimson seedless, Red Globe and more Princess, which have had time to produce bigger berries,” he says.
Good support from retailers is also keeping sales strong.
“Product movement is very good,” he says. “We’re finding homes for all of our varieties. We’re getting good business from the chain stores, which are doing a lot of advertising. That’s helping to keep supplies moving through the system.”
Clyde is optimistic that the strength of the current market will continue through the rest of the season.
“I think it will just get better,” he says. “As long as we can maintain the excellent quality of our grapes and keep them moving to the stores, we should enjoy a better demand and better prices for our product.”