The 2014 San Joaquin Valley table grape season has got off to one of its earliest starts in several years, kicking off during the week commencing 16 June, but there are concerns about lack of coloration in the fruit.
An unusually warm winter, which had pushed sugars well ahead of historical levels, had the California industry expecting to get a jump on what could well be one of the heaviest crops in state history. However, as field crews have waded into the vineyards, yields have fallen short of expectations, especially for Flame Seedless, as colour levels are lagging. Opinions are mixed as to why.
“I can’t tell you what’s going on (with respect to poor colour), but it’s pervasive throughout the southern San Joaquin so far,” said one field manager for a major grower-shipper who preferred to comment off the record. “Quality for early Sugraones is nothing spectacular either.”
Industry speculation suggests that drought conditions that have prevailed in California over the last three years combined with an abnormally warm winter may have something to do with the average quality to date. Packouts are expected to increase next week if colouring improves in Flame Seedless. However, a heat wave is forecast to settle into the San Joaquin by 30 June, which could further inhibit coloration in red grapes.
“A good percentage of the early Flames may never get picked due to the coloring problems," said the field manager. “You could see a gap for reds ahead of the start of the Scarlet Royal deal (in late July) as a result.”
Both the Mexican and Coachella seasons were still shipping at fairly strong levels to start the current week. So far, the US FOB market hadn’t reacted to the slow start to the SanJoaquin season as many domestic retailers reportedly bought heavily from desert stocks to assure themselves of adequate supplies going into the 4 July holiday period.