Mike HornickThis season's crop is expected to match or even eclipse last year's record California grape production of 116.5 million box equivalents.FRESNO, Calif. — California table grapes will have another record crop in 2014 — albeit by a modest margin — if the April 24 estimate of 116.5 million 19-pound box equivalents holds up.
The biggest crop ever, 116.2 million, was last year. A final estimate is expected July 17 from the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission.
As the numbers suggest, grower-shippers are convinced they will ride out headline-making drought conditions by relying on wells and groundwater — at least for this year. And the warm, dry winter did much to bring California grapes into the market faster than many could remember.
“We expect the earliest harvest in our history,” John Pandol, special projects director at Delano-based Pandol Bros. Inc., said May 27. “Our earliest start was June 21 in 2004. We’ll beat that by two or three days.”
For the commission, prospects of another huge crop drive its extensive marketing efforts at retail and foodservice, in export as well as media and online.
“Our marketing team began meeting with retailers in March,” said Kathleen Nave, California Table Grape Commission president. “We work on seasonlong promotional commitments with the top 75 retailers in the U.S. and Canada, and those are all in great shape.”
About 60% of the state’s grapes will come off the vine after Sept. 1. Production started April 28 in the Coachella Valley. Picking in the San Joaquin Valley is likely to go into December, and shipments into February.
“It’s a very long season,” Nave said. “In the U.S. and Canada we have full promotions going through December for retail ad commitments and we have special promotions in January for only the second time. There should be a permanent grape display in every retail store.”
Anthony Vineyards salesman Rob Spinelli said he expects continued good movement on California grapes and minimal overlap among regional and Mexico deals.
“A lot of items that usually compete against grapes aren’t affecting the market now,” Spinelli said June 5. “The California cherry deal was nonexistent this year. We might be affected when Washington cherries start, but I don’t see demand on grapes coming off at all.”
Bakersfield-based Anthony Vineyards expects no overlap between Coachella and Arvin.
However, Steve Root, president and chief executive officer of Coachella-based East West Unlimited LLC, said Arvin’s mid-June start could clash with Mexico production.