Mexican grape volume should be up after late start
The Mexican table grape deal may be getting off to a slightly later start than usual this season, but grower-shippers expect volume to be significantly higher than last year.
Sonora grape producers forecast an export crop of 22 million 19-pound boxes at their annual Sonora Spring Grapes Summit in Tubac, Ariz., on March 21.
Last year’s packout was 16.37 million boxes.
Mexico will provide 65% of the table grapes sold in the U.S. during May and June, estimated John Pandol, director of special projects for Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Bros. Inc. and chairman of the Grape Division of the Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.
California and Chile each will account for 15%.
Mexico will ship 4 million boxes of grapes to North American customers starting the week of Memorial Day,
May 27, and continuing for the next four weeks, Pandol said.
Growers will be “powering up prior to Memorial Day,” and there will be grapes available for that holiday, he said, but generally not in promotable volume until June.
Bakersfield, Calif.-based Grapeman Farms will start shipping Mexican grapes around May 7, a bit later than usual, said Jared Lane, vice president of marketing.
“The quality of this year’s crop looks phenomenal.”
He estimated that the company’s volume will be up 15% compared to last year.
Miky Suarez, managing partner at MAS Melons & Grapes LLC, Rio Rico, Ariz., also was hopeful for higher volume this season.
He attributed last year’s smaller crop to weather problems — specifically, a lack of chill hours.
The plants need 200 hours below 45 degrees so they can go dormant, rest and be strong in the spring when bud break occurs, he said.
That didn’t happen last year, so the plants were not as strong as they needed to be.
“The result is you have less production,” Suarez said.
This year, there were adequate chill hours in Hermosillo, Guaymas and Caborca, he said, so volume should be up — “unless something happens.”
A freeze in Caborca this February damaged 10% to 15% of the crop there and some in northern Hermosillo, but Suarez said that won’t have a significant impact on Mexico’s overall grape volume.
He hoped his company’s volume will be similar to 2017, which was 15% higher than last year.
Bakersfield, Calif.-based Sun World International likely will kick off its Mexico grape season seven to 10 days later than last year, said Jason Fuller, vice president of domestic sales and grower relations.
“That can change with a warm spring,” he said.
The fruit set looks good on most varieties, he said in late March.
“The cooler winter helped with dormancy, which most believe was better than it had been in years,” he said.
As long as no freezing temperatures impact the young buds, “things should progress nicely,” he said.
Fuller said he was optimistic that 2019 will be better on many levels than 2018.
“Good fruit set and good growing conditions will lead to better quality and promotable volumes,” he said, “hopefully pleasing the consumer enough to attract repeat sales at the retail level.”
Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos. will start picking the second week of May, which is slightly later than usual, said Tom Wilson, grape sales manager.
“We had some cold snaps throughout January and February that contributed to a later start than normal,” he said.
But he added that quality should be “outstanding” and sizing should be “standard” for each variety.
Giumarra’s volume will be up this year, he added.
“We have more acreage planted and also more new varieties.”
New varieties tend to produce more per acre than conventional varieties, Wilson said.