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The Grape Guys will be back in the Arvin deal this year

“We are back in Arvin this year after a couple of years of not being in Arvin,” said Shawn Ricks, president of The Grape Guys in Cutler, CA.

Located at the southern end of California’s San Joaquin Valley, the Arvin district is always among the early grape-growing districts in the valley to get started.

“For The Grape Guys, we think it is a good thing” to be back in Arvin,” especially this year when the start of the San Joaquin Valley deal is delayed and the spring grape harvests in Sonora, Mexico, and California’s Coachella Valley will finish on light volume and, most likely, on strong markets.

“We think the San Joaquin Valley deal will open very strong, so we are glad to be back in Arvin this year especially,” he said.

Mr. Ricks was in Nogales, AZ, selling the Mexican deal when The Produce News talked to him June 6.

“The Mexican deal and maybe to a lesser extent the Coachella deal we expect to be finishing up rather early this year,” he said. “There will certainly be fruit that will bridge” from Mexico and Coachella to the San Joaquin deal. “But I think it is going to be very, very limited supplies during that time period, and I am expecting markets to escalate into the $20s on red and probably on green seedless as well.”

It may not be “a true gap” where there are no grapes available. But “it is almost a gap, there will be such late supplies,” he said.

Because of cool spring weather in the San Joaquin Valley this year, “Our start in Arvin is delayed well past the Fourth of July,” Mr. Ricks said. “I am thinking somewhere around the 7th” for the beginning of the Arvin harvest, and “it could be later.”

Mr. Ricks said that he concurs with comments from other growers that there appears to be some good bunch formation in the early grapes.

“We see that, too,” he said. “We are pretty pleased with the shatter that we got.” But beyond that, “I don’t have much to say” about the quality of the crop, because it was still too early to tell “what sort of adverse effects, if any, there will be” from the erratic but often cool and wet spring weather.

However, “despite the fact that there was inclement weather throughout much of the bloom and since then, ... early indications are that we are still in shape to have a pretty good quality crop.”

Volume should be good, however, he said. “There is certainly plenty of fruit,” with the exception of just a couple of later varieties that appear to be a little light.

“I think we will have a full crop, and I am optimistic that we can get a good quality crop off,” he added.

“The fruit out of the desert regions (Mexico and Coachella) has been generally sound, and Flames have had good color, but the size has not been special” and actually has been “a bit of a disappointment,” Mr. Ricks said.

But that is not necessarily an indication of “what we are going to see in the San Joaquin Valley. It is just a little early for me to know.”

In the company’s early San Joaquin Valley deal, “We will be in Flames. We have some early Thompsons. We will have Princess and Summer Royal,” Mr. Ricks said. With the exception of the Thompsons, “We will have [those varieties] very early once the San Joaquin gets started. My Flame block is in an area that is usually first, so I expect to have Flames as early as anybody. My Summer Royals are on sandy ground, so they typically come off quite early as well.”

The only personnel change at The Grape Guys this season is that Dave Perez, who had been on sales, is no longer with the company. There are no immediate plans to replace him, Mr. Ricks said.