UPDATED: California grapes hit record 2 years in a row

03/21/2014 09:51:00 AM
Mike Hornick

California table grape commission(UPDATED COVERAGE March 25) California shipped a record 117.4 million boxes of its fresh table grapes during the 2013 season, generating a crop value of $1.7 billion.

That surpassed the previous high, 101.5 million, set the year before — and came in well above the 2013 estimate of about 107 million boxes. The season ran from early May into February.

“The crop was larger than expected,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission. “We ended up having weather that enabled us to pick and pack more than normal, and more than was expected.”

The market continues to have room for some degree of continued volume growth, Nave said.

“The good news is that not only did the industry harvest a record crop, but it did so at really good prices,” she said. “So the expectation, if we’re looking five or 10 years ahead, is that the California table grape industry will continue to grow at a more incremental level.”

A 2014 crop estimate is due at the end of April.

“The expectation is that the crop size will be slightly smaller than in 2013,” Nave said.

Last year the commission received about $3.6 million through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program, under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. California grapes were in 25 markets worldwide in 2013, Nave said.

“Exports are a critically important component of the table grape industry’s program,” she said.

Those also set a volume record, with 48.6 million boxes shipped to international markets — 41% of the total crop, up 17% over 2012. The top export markets in volume were Canada, 11.9 million; China and Hong Kong, 7.9 million; and Mexico, 6.6 million.

The new records are the latest in a trend that goes back a decade or more. In 2003, less than 80 million boxes shipped. It took until 2012 to cross the 100-million mark.

California produces 99% of commercial fresh grapes grown in the U.S. The 117.4 million boxes are equivalent to 116.2 19-pound units.

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