Quality is said to be excellent this year, but California table grape growers have some concern about where their fruit is going to go. The current tariffs in place for the Chinese market combined with competition from other producing regions have created an atmosphere that could push prices down.
“This year we had optimum growing conditions, so we had a really mild spring, summer wasn’t too hot. We haven’t had any rain or any issues with the weather which could add to decay or defects,” said Assistant Ranch Manager at Anthony Vineyards, Domenick Buck. “We’re seeing extremely high quality and very high yield. So, the market has an oversupply of fruit right now.”
According to a report from Origin Fruit Services South America, California had the largest volume of table grapes at the end of September in more than 10 years. As of September 30, a 19 percent increase over last year was demonstrated with 12.9 million boxes of grapes. Volumes of white seedless grapes were about even with last year, but red seedless were up 39 percent and black seedless were up 16 percent.
According to the California Table Grape Commission, overall grape volume in 2017 was 109.1 million box units valued at $1.81 billion. The table grape industry may see crop growth of up to ten percent, as expectations in April were 114.6 million boxes for this year. Over a third of California’s table grape production is shipped out of the U.S., with the top five export markets typically being Canada, Taiwan, Mexico, Philippines, and mainland China.
The California Farm Bureau Federation reported that table grape shipments from California to China have declined by approximately 40 percent since the increased tariffs were put into effect in June. Even with record shipments of table grapes in recent weeks, there is still a significant amount of table grapes in the marketplace. “You’re seeing more of the grapes go domestically rather than being exported,” Buck noted.
As more inventory remains stateside, many table grape growers are uneasy about what that may mean for overall prices. “Chile and Peru are starting their production right now too, so we’re going to see some of their fruit hit the market for cheaper prices than what we would be able to sell it for,” Buck said.