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Michael Astorga to head Sundale’s new import/export dept.

Sundale Sales Inc. in Tulare, CA, a grower, packer, shipper and exporter of California table grapes, has hired Michael Astorga, who was previously with Sunview Marketing in Dinuba, CA, as vice president of international development. He started June 1.

Formed in 2006, Sundale Sales is a partnership between Sean Stockton, the company’s president, and the Kinosian family that owns Sundale Vineyards.

Sundale’s focus, historically, has been mainly on domestic retail customers, Mr. Stockton told The Produce News. Now “we will gain a presence in export development as well,” he continued. “We are excited about the opportunities” in export markets, “especially with our late program” which continues to expand.

Mr. Astorga told The Produce News that he started his produce career about 14 years ago at C.H. Robinson. “I worked with Sean there, and I am real excited to work with him again,” he said.

Mr. Astorga spent the last 11 years at Sunview Marketing, working in that company’s export program. “Now I am here, part of a new venture” which will be the opening of a new “import-export department for Sundale.” It will start with exports, “then move into imports, and we are going to do not only grapes but every commodity” through “relationships with different growers.”

Another major change at Sundale coming into the current season is an expansion of its facilities. “We’ve moved into [a recently completed] new office, a 5,500-square-foot facility,” Mr. Stockton said. Currently underway is “a third-phase, multi-million-dollar expansion on the cold storage, the house pack facility and fumigation chambers. We took out about nine acres of vineyards to expand the cold storage and our whole facility.”

The company has been in a growth mode since its founding.

On the production side, that growth has come — and will continue to come — over the next couple of years, mainly in Autumn King, a late-season green seedless variety, and Scarlet Royal, a late-season red seedless variety, augmenting the varieties already being grown by the Kinosian family.

While most of the growth will be in the late season, the company also has new plantings of Sugraone, an early-season green seedless grape. The new Sugraone vineyards, which will be in their first year of production this season, will give the company a stronger position on the front end.

In the past, “We have started as early as July 4,” Mr. Stockton said. This year, “I don’t think we will start Flames until, at the earliest, the 21st,” although warm weather could move that up a few days. As of June 1, the crop appeared “every bit as late as last year.”

Although the start of the season this year is late due to cool weather, “the early counts” of bunches on the vines “show a very healthy crop.” Mr. Stockton expects total volume for the company of around 3.5 million boxes of grapes this year.

“We are expecting three-quarters of a million [boxes of] Autumn Kings this year,” he said. Those will be “a stronghold of our late program.”

But “we have consistency throughout,” he said, starting with Flames and Summer Royal black seedless, “leading into Princess on the greens and some early Sugraones on their first year crop. From there we will go on to the Scarlet Royals ... in August” and the proprietary Sundale Red variety in early to mid-September.

The Autumn Kings and Autumn Royals will ship from about mid-September through December, he said.

While the Sugraones will not have heavy production this year, “we are excited to see how that variety develops here in the northern area,” Mr. Stockton said. Traditionally, most Sugraones have been grown in the southern San Joaquin Valley or still further south in the Southern California desert and in Sonora, Mexico.