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Sun World grape program places strong emphasis on proprietary varieties

BAKERSFIELD, CA — At one time, Sun World International LLC, here, was heavy to the Sugraone variety in its table grape program. The variety, an early season green seedless that was developed by the Sun World breeding program and which Sun World markets under the proprietary trade brand of “Superior Seedless,” was once a Sun World exclusive but is now in the public domain.

With a focus on the Sugraone in earlier years, Sun World focused on the early season and “didn’t have much late grapes, other than Crimson,” according to Rick Paul, category director.

Because Sugraone “is now a public variety and a lot more people have it,” Sun World has reduced its own production and instead has increased plantings of some of the newer proprietary varieties to come out of its breeding program.

But it takes time and capital to build volume in a newly developed variety. “Black Diamond, our ownership, has really aggressively planted” four proprietary Sun World grapes, Mr. Paul said. One is “Midnight Beauty” brand, Sugrathirteen variety, a black seedless. Another is “Scarlotta Seedless” brand, Sugranineteen variety.

Scarlotta is “a late red seedless” that is “a real premium variety” and brings a premium price in the marketplace, he said. “That has helped our bottom line.”

The other two, both numbered varieties that have yet to be named, are a late red variety, Sugrathirtyfour, and a late green variety, Sugrathirtyfive. “They look outstanding,” but they are so new that “we won’t see the first [commercial] crop on either of them for another year” and it will take some time to build volume, he said.

“It took us about five years to get ‘Scarlotta’ up to the volume we now have,” Mr. Paul said.

The aggressive planting of Scarlotta and Midnight Beauty “has made a big difference to the company,” he said. “It has taken a lot of pressure off the Sugraones” and has “given us some breathing room” by not having the Sugraone “so critical to our program.”

The “Midnight Beauty” grape harvest was expected to start around July 25 or possibly a day or two earlier, Mr. Paul said. They “look good.”

Superiors, less critical perhaps than before but still Sun World’s largest-volume variety, appears to be off about 10 percent in volume for the company in the San Joaquin Valley this year as it was in Coachella.

“We are not a very big Flame shipper,” Mr. Paul said, but the company’s flame crop in the valley appears to be off about 20 percent.

Both Flames and Superiors were expected to start around July 15-18, nearly two weeks later than normal.

Crimsons “look good” but are still “a ways off,” with the harvest expected to start late August or the first of September, he said. “Scarlottas” will probably start the first week of October.