Cancel OK

Great Grapes

Complexities, consolidation, and what else is new in California
MS_Grape Guy

With fresher, more appealing grapes later in the season, shoppers are enjoying more access and a better eating experience. The result is increased consumption, particularly around holidays. “There are a lot of marketing opportunities for California grapes during our season—Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.”

Exports & Destinations
The California Table Grape Commission reported that in 2017 growers produced 109.1 million boxes at a crop value of $1.81 billion. This was down only slightly from 2016, which saw 110 million boxes produced at a value of $1.85 billion. “Had it not been for the excessive heat, then heavy rain in the Central Valley last summer, production might have been higher,” says Lane. He also cites vine fatigue as a likely culprit as well. He believes the 2018 season should be a good one, with harvests beginning by July.

Kathleen Nave, president of the Commission notes nearly two-thirds of California’s production is sold and consumed in the United States, with 35.8 percent going to export markets. “California table grapes are regularly shipped to 59 countries worldwide, with the top volume markets being Canada, Mexico, mainland China, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan.”

Dorsey clarifies, “Because grapes are trucked to Canada and Mexico, many growers and shippers count those markets as domestic. China is the largest grape producer in the world; with its lower pricing and increased number of licensing agreements, it will become a formidable competitor in the Asian market.”

As of last spring, international trade, especially with China, has been under the threat of retaliatory tariffs. The timing comes as China’s industry is expanding. “China has five times the production of California and is displacing us in some Asian markets,” points out George Radanovich, president of the California Fresh Fruit Association in Fresno. China, he states, “is our main competitor for exports.”

Jon Zaninovich, president of Jasmine Vineyards, Inc. in Delano, agrees. “The Chinese table grape industry is experiencing a lot of growth. As the result of improved quality and cheaper pricing, we’ve seen a reduction of business into China,” he admits, but adds, “there’s still a perception in Asia that California product is safer.”

Speaking of Imports
To keep up with demand, table grapes are imported when California grapes are unavailable, roughly January through April, so the majority of imports don’t compete. The most consistent sources for off-season grapes are Chile, Mexico, and Peru.