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No major overlap of Mexico and Coachella grape deals with Central California after all

by Rand Green | July 15, 2010
With large crops and late starts on all varieties for the spring grape deals in Mexico and California's Coachella Valley, there was an expectation this year that both producing areas would still be going strong when the grape harvest in the San Joaquin Valley in Central California was ready to begin.

Even though the Central California crop was also running late due to cool spring weather, growers were concerned that a significant amount of fruit from Mexico and Coachella would still remain to be marketed when the Central California harvest began.

But to the surprise of many, by the week of July 12, just as the harvest in Central California was getting underway, a combination of factors had quickly brought the Mexico and Coachella shipping seasons almost to an end, and it had become evident that the feared major overlap had not materialized.

"The transition between Mexico-Coachella and the San Joaquin Valley has been a lot better than expected," said Jared Lane, vice president of sales and marketing for Stevco Inc. in Bakersfield, CA, which ships grapes from all three areas. "The movement has been phenomenal on both red and green" grape varieties. "Shippers are basically sold out or in the process of selling out in both Mexico and Coachella," he said. "We expected an overlap of supply and all three districts going at the same time, but that is not happening." Stevco started harvesting Sugraones in the southern San Joaquin Valley July 8.

Also, some of the grapes in Mexico did not "make grade" for various reasons and were not exported. "Anything that could make grade came up here, but there was a lot … that didn't," he said.

Mexico and Coachella both "seem to have cleaned up fairly well," Rick Paul, category director for Sun World International LLC in Bakersfield, said July 12. Sun World has production in Coachella and in the San Joaquin Valley, and the company expected to start harvesting its "Superior Seedless" brand of Sugraones in the San Joaquin Valley July 14 and Flames July 15.

"It is a perfect transition for us," Earl McMenamin, a salesperson at Pacific Trellis Fruit LLC in Reedley, CA, said July 13. "We are finished in Mexico except for Red Globes, and [those] will be finished up by early next week. We are going to start Flames this week in Arvin [CA]," in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

"It appears … the two earlier districts [Mexico and Coachella] have cleaned up nicely," Cary Crum, vice president of Green Tree International Inc. in Visalia, CA, said July 13. Green Tree brokers grapes from Mexico and California. The late start in Central California "has allowed for [Mexico and Coachella] to clean up and get out of the way, so I don't think we are going to see a huge overlap," although there will still be some overlap, he said. Consequently, he does not expect the grape market to become depressed. But he does see "an opportunity for retailers to promote aggressively."

The transition "has been smother than anticipated," Louie Galvan, a partner in Fruit Royale Inc. in Delano, CA, said July 12. "We anticipated a bit of an overlap," but "we are going to be finished shipping [Mexican grapes] out of Nogales [AZ] by the end of this week, and it will be our first week packing up here, so it worked out pretty good. There was good movement toward the end of the Mexican deal to help clean up some of those inventories."