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Sun World will store some Coachella grapes as bridge to San Joaquin Valley

In the San Joaquin Valley this summer, “the early part of the grape deal is not going to be early,” Rick Paul, category manager at Sun World international LLC in Bakersfield, CA, said June 2.

He expects that there will be “somewhat” of a gap between the end of the grape harvest in the Coachella Valley in California’s southern desert and the start of the harvest for Sun World’s earliest varieties in the San Joaquin Valley. “We think we will be finished [harvesting in Coachella] and still have about two weeks to go before we get any fruit out of the San Joaquin Valley,” he said.

To bridge that gap, “we are planning to put some fruit away to make sure that we meet all of our obligations,” Mr. Paul said. “Whereas normally we would be shipping out of the harvest” for all of the fruit from Coachella, this season “we will store some short term in the desert and some a little longer term in Bakersfield.” That is product that “we will pack loose and then transfer it to the packing container closer to the actual day of shipment.”

It is not the first time Sun World has used that method to fill a gap between Coachella and the start of the San Joaquin season. “This will be the second year in a row we have had to do it,” he said.

Last year was similar to the current season in that the start of the grape harvest in the San Joaquin Valley was delayed by cool weather.

The short-term storage program to provide continuity of supply during the transition worked out well last year, according to Mr. Paul. It should work even better this year. “I think we are a little bit better prepared and learned some things from last year we might have done better,” he stated. “So I think we have a higher comfort level on how to handle some of these issues than we did last year,” including some similar weather-related issues.

Mr. Paul expects Sun World’s first grapes in the San Joaquin Valley to be ready for harvest as late as last year and possibly even a little later. “Last year, I think we started Flames on July 12 and ‘Superiors’ on July 14, and we are not sure we are going to be even there,” he said. “Superior” is Sun World’s trademarked brand for the Sugraone variety originally developed in Sun World’s breeding program.

About a week after those varieties start, Sun World will come in with its proprietary Sugrathirteen black seedless variety, which it markets under the “Midnight Beauty” brand.

“Usually the last week of August, we will start Crimsons as well as some Princess and early Autumn King,” he said. The Crimsons will continue into November. In early October, Sun World’s proprietary late red seedless Sugranineteen variety, marketed under the “Scarlotta” brand, will start, “and we will probably ship those from early October to the end of December.”

Sun World will have increases in some of its later varieties this year, but the early-season varieties such as Flame and “Superior” are “pretty steady at this point,” he said. “Those vines have reached full production.”