Jim Offner 2017-04-22 05:20:48
The upcoming Mexican grape crop is primed for lots of high-quality volume, enough to promote aggressively through an eight-week deal, grower-shippers and marketers say. The 2017 crop could even be one for the ages, said Carlos Bon, fruit category manager with Hermosillo, Sonora-based Grupo Alta, whose grapes are marketed under the Divine Flavor brand. “We believe this will be a record crop,” Bon said. Official projections weren’t expected to come out until the end of April. Bon credited a very good winter for fruit set and development. “Bunch counts are really good, and this is really important, as we get to choose the best ones we want to work with and throw the mediocre ones out,” he said. That translates not only into a lot of fruit, but a lot of good fruit, Bon said. “We expect extraordinary quality this year on all of our varieties,” he said. The percentage of the crop that comes into the U.S. and Canadian markets certainly will be in line with the volumes of the past, but it could exceed them, Bon said. That should lead to positive sales numbers, he said, “because of the better quality we will most definitely have and the exchange rate ‘stealing’ some volume from the domestic market.” Official numbers likely will be released at the annual Sonora Spring Summit, a grower- oriented event scheduled for April 27-28 in Hermosillo, Mexico. “A full crop with, at this point, beautiful clusters,” is how Atomic Torosian, partner with Fresno, Calif.-based Crown Jewels Marketing LLC, described this year’s grape crop. Torosian estimated the crop size at 19 million to 20 million boxes. “Looks like it’s going to be one of the best crops we’ve had in a long, long time,” he said. Such a performance would be particularly important this year, following up on a rough end to the Chilean grape deal, Torosian said. “I think the industry is more than anxious and ready for Mexico to start their grape crop because they’ve had such inconsistency coming up from Chile this year for whatever reasons,” he said. VOLUME Grape shipments from Mexico to the U.S., at all ports of entry in 2016, totaled 292.2 million pounds, compared to about 312 million in 2015, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures furnished by the Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas. Flame seedless continues to be the dominant variety among grape shipments from Mexico, with 162.6 million pounds entering the U.S. market in 2016, compared to 159.4 million a year earlier. Sugraones from Mexico totaled 54.1 million pounds in 2016, down from 77 million a year earlier. There were about 25 million pounds of perlettes shipped from Mexico to the U.S. in 2015, compared to 26.4 million in 2016. White seedless totaled about 17.7 million pounds in 2016, compared to 13.6 million the previous year. Volume of summer royals was about 10.2 million pounds in 2016, up from 8.3 million in 2015. Red globes totaled about 10.1 million pounds last year and 9.5 million the year before. PRICING As of April 3, according to the USDA, 18-pound containers of bagged thompson seedless grapes from Chile were $28-30 for extra-large; $26-28, large; and $22-24, medium- large. A year ago, the same product was $18-20, extra-large; $16-18, large; and $16-18, medium. John Pandol, director of special projects for Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Bros. Inc., estimates a volume increase of about 10% this year out of Mexico. “About the same on the front third, heavier in the middle third and lighter on the back third,” he said. KICK-OFF The deal should begin to peak after May 15, said Jason Fuller, sales manager with Bakersfield, Calif.-based Sun World International. “The Mexican grape season looks to be an earlier start to previous seasons, although the volume will come after May 15,” he said. “The crop is currently expected to be very flush with volume, some expecting record numbers for the region.” Increased production further south in Mexico is pushing earlier starting dates, said Earl McMenamin, grape manager for Mexico and California with Los Angeles-based Pacific Trellis Fruit/Dulcinea Farms. “Growth for us, as well as the industry, seems to bring additional growth to the southern Mexico regions, specifically Guaymas, for early green grapes,” he said. EARLY-SEASON GRAPES Harvest on early-season green grapes in Guaymas could start by April 25, he said. Production should be good on all varieties, said Miguel “Miky” Suarez, owner of Rio Rico, Ariz.-based MAS Melons & Grapes. “If everything keeps the same as it’s going now, which is a good growing period, it could very well be that our total crossings will be higher than last year,” he said. Last year’s volume was about 16.4 million boxes, after a 17 million- box-year in 2015, Suarez said. “I think this year is going to be definitely closer to 2015 and probably a little higher than that,” he said. Francisco Illic, import/export manager for Dinuba, Calif.- based King Fresh Produce Inc., agreed. “Traditional varieties such as perlette, flame, summer royal and red globe show very good numbers of bunches per vine and great bunch formation,” he said. “The sugraone variety is showing a lower count on bunches but, if compared to last season, the count is far better now.” Illic said the big increase in volume will come from new varieties, such as Prime, Cotton Candy and Arra varieties.
Published by Farm Journal Media. View All Articles.