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Mexican grape crop appears light at start, good volume through June

The 2013 Mexican grape season is expected to start out a little later and a little lighter than normal, but with full crops, abundant promotional opportunities and normal timing from late May or early June through the end of June, according to most of the growers, shippers and marketers The Produce News talked to about the deal.

“Definitely, [the Mexican grape growers] have a full crop in place,” said John Pandol, chairman of the grape division of the 13-MexGrapes-CropA grape vineyard in Sonora, Mexico.Fresh Produce Association of the Americas in Nogales, AZ, and a director of Pandol Bros. Inc. in Delano, CA, March 27, after having spent the previous week in the growing areas in Mexico.

“They will start late and finish normal,” Mr. Pandol continued. “I think there will be just a modest amount of grapes around for the Memorial Day ad period,” with a “big push” for business starting the following weekend and continuing through June. “So there should be grapes [from Mexico] through the Fourth of July” and possibly for the following weekend.

“I think we are going to see a pretty large crop of grapes out of Mexico,” said Atomic Torosian, a partner at Crown Jewels Produce Co. in Fresno, CA. “It will be good for promotions. Right now, the grape clusters and everything look very good. We see a lot of full bunches. It is a good healthy crop.”

“There is some talk of the early deal being off anywhere from 15 to 25 percent,” said Paul Bachelier, president of Daily Fresh Distributing LLC in Nogales. “That is due to the cold snaps that we had in the middle of January” then again mid-February.

It appears the first grapes will start a little later than normal, according to Jerry Havel, director of sales and marketing at Fresh Farms in Nogales. “I think you are going to start seeing grapes from Mexico in small volume around the 15th of May” with volume coming on strong after May 25.”

Normally, about 25 percent of Mexico’s volume ships in May and 75 percent in June. Mr. Havel said this year he expects that “it is going to be closer to 20 percent in May and 80 percent in June. I don’t think you are going to be able to do too many promotions in the month of May this year,” but “there is going to be an ample supply of really good quality grapes in the month of June.”

Overall, “I think it will be a larger crop than last year,” Mr. Havel continued. “Last year, we ended up having less grapes than everybody wanted. This year will end up being ... more of a normal size crop, and I think the quality will be good. We  had a lot of chilling hours over the wintertime. That always seems to help the crop. And usually after a light crop” such as last year’s, “comes a heavier crop. So this year, I think you will see a good supply of promotable grapes, especially in the month of June.”

Miguel Suarez, sales manager and managing partner at MAS Melons & Grapes LLC in Nogales, does not think that Mexico’s crop is quite as large this year as it was last.

Crossings were around 17 million boxes last year, and “I have a feeling that we are not going to make it to 17 million” this year, he said. “I think we are going to be closer to 16 million. This is just my personal opinion,” based on the number of aborted grape bunches he has seen in some vineyards due to “some periods of very hot weather and very cold weather.”

He also thinks the start of the season will not be as early as last year.

“There is not going to be a lot of fruit for Memorial Day ads because of the later start,” said Shaun Ricks, March 27. Mr. Ricks, then president of The Grape Guys in Visalia, CA, and now vice president of sales and marketing for Eagle Eye Grape Guys, a newly formed partnership with Eagle Eye Produce, said that there will probably be some grapes from Mexico in the stores for Memorial Day, “but I wouldn’t expect there would be enough volume ... in the stores in time to promote for that Memorial Day weekend.” There will be promotable volume the following week, however. “I think you are going to see June with pretty full production, and there are going to be great opportunities to promote,” he said.