The San Joaquin Valley is about a week into its table grape harvest, and the region is poised to serve retailers’ organic grape needs well into the fall.
“We started harvesting organic reds from the [San Joaquin] Valley a week ago and began organic greens today,” said John Harley, vice president of sales and marketing for Anthony Vineyards in Bakersfield, CA. “And we will still be packing some high-flavor organic grapes in the desert [Coachella Valley] for another week or more. We have organic Timcos [red grapes] as well as Sweet Globes [green grapes]. We are going to start Autumn Crisp [in the desert] on Thursday or Friday and have them until about the 18th.”
John Harley, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Anthony Vineyards
Within the next two weeks, Harley said, most San Joaquin Valley shippers will have fruit, making that region once again the center of the grape deal. He noted that Mexico has had its day in the sun, but its July volume did not materialize. “Every year, the Mexican grape industry says it will have big supplies through July, but that just never happens. They recently lowered their estimate by 5 million boxes, and I don’t think they are going to reach that.”
“We started harvesting organic reds from the [San Joaquin] Valley a week ago and began organic greens today. And we will still be packing some high-flavor organic grapes in the desert [Coachella Valley] for another week or more.” - John Harley
Early in the spring, producers from Mexico did estimate a record crop approaching 25 million boxes, with most of it slated to be shipped during a 6–8-week period from mid-May to mid-July. California growers were concerned that the San Joaquin Valley production might get underway amidst a glut of grapes and low prices.
Anthony Vineyards organic green seedless grapes
Harley said that is not the case as the early-July organic table grape market was in the high $20s, which he called "a good market," adding, "I expect the pricing on organic grapes to hold for the next two to three weeks. Then there should be a small downward adjustment and then maybe another one a couple of weeks later.”
Anthony Vineyards organic red seedless grapes
There will be promotable volumes of California organic red and green grapes from late July through the fall. “Organic black grapes will be a little spottier … coming in and out of production,” Harley said.
“I expect the pricing on organic grapes to hold for the next two to three weeks. Then there should be a small downward adjustment and then maybe another one a couple of weeks later.” - John Harley
Craig Morris, grape category director for Homegrown Organic Farms in Porterville, CA, had a very similar report this week, with red grape production now underway, and green grapes starting next week.
Craig Morris, Grape Category Director, Homegrown Organic Farms
Once the production starts, Morris said it will ramp up quickly. “There should be promotable volume of both reds and greens by July 20,” he said, speaking about organics, which is all that Homegrown produces and sells.
Morris also agreed that the San Joaquin Valley was coming into a strong organic grape market as Mexico’s production was rapidly winding down.
Homegrown Organic Farms organic green grapes
"Industry wide, we expect organic grape production to be at least 90 percent of a normal crop,” he said. “We did have a few ranches get nicked by frost early in the spring, but that wasn’t a widespread thing. It was location specific.”
While Homegrown’s production will be about the same as last year, Morris said he has heard that there is new organic acreage bearing fruit this year, so he expects the supply/demand curve to be in balance.
"Industry wide, we expect organic grape production to be at least 90 percent of a normal crop.” - Craig Morris
“Demand is increasing for organics but so is supply. We welcome increased supply from our friendly competitors as long as they tether that supply with demand,” he said, making clear that the increased demand is for the newer, high-flavor varieties. “Everything we grow are the newer varieties. The only traditional, old-line variety we have are Flames, and that’s only because no new variety has been developed yet to replace Flames during July.”
Homegrown Organic Farms organic green grapes
Homegrown will have solid supplies of organic grapes until early November, Morris said, explaining that organic production necessarily ends sooner than conventional because the growers do not have the chemical tools available to extend the season beyond that. “We’ll get through October, and then we will see supplies taper off pretty quickly in early November.”
The Homegrown sales veteran did comment on the excitement that is currently being felt as they discuss the season with their retail partners. “We seem to be past COVID and meeting with our customers again. Most of our programs were put in place several months ago, and retailers are excited about starting the season. Demand has been excellent.”
“Demand is increasing for organics but so is supply.” - Craig Morris
He added that the company will be exhibiting at the Organic Produce Summit next week and will have some early season organic grape samples for their customers.