Recent Storm ‘Devastating and Unprecedented’ for Table Grape Industry

Brian GermanGrapes, Industry, Nuts & Grapes

Wind and rain from Hurricane Hilary have dealt a significant blow to the table grape industry at a critical time of the season. Most of the 90 different varieties that are grown in California are at peak harvest. The California Table Grape Commission is reporting a revised forecast of 71.9 million 19-pound boxes this year. It would be the first time in 30 years that the crop size was less than 75 million boxes.

Table Grape Industry

“It’s very, very devastating and unprecedented. This is not something the table grape industry has ever gone through,” Commission President Kathleen Nave told AgNet West. “The estimate is that we will lose 25 million boxes. That’s 30 percent of the crop that was out there hanging when the hurricane hit that has been lost. That is very significant to the industry as a whole, to the individual companies, to the rural communities that are supported by the table grape industry, and to the farm worker community.”

Despite the significant loss, there are still about 45 million boxes of grapes that the industry is planning to ship. The storm system did not impact all areas of production equally. Nave emphasized that work is continuing and there will be grape supplies available for retailers and consumers. As the table grape industry continues to assess the impact of the storm, it seems the lateness of the season might have helped some growers weather the storm.

“The season was late, which meant there was more fruit out on the vine at this time than there would have been in what we might call a normal season. But what it also meant is that for many of the varieties, the fruit was less mature than it would have been,” Nave explained. “The less mature the fruit is when it takes a rain, generally speaking, the better it fares. So, it was a bit of a double-edged sword that that the season was late.”

Brian German
Ag News Director / AgNet West