The Coachella Valley table grape harvest, which began about the middle of May, is in full swing. Favorable weather earlier in the season made for an extended bloom period that is producing not only record yields, but also excellent quality. “We’re about two-thirds to three-quarters done at this point, says Mark Ostrum, PCA with Helena Chemical Company at Thermal. “We’ll be finished by the end of June. There was hardly anything in terms of disease or pest pressure this year — we had a few vine mealybugs here and there, but nothing we couldn’t take care of.”
While many local newspapers have been reporting labor shortages, those reports seem to be slightly exaggerated, he says.
“I haven’t heard of any problems. When we had the big freeze in January, everybody was complaining there was no work. Now they’re working.”
It has been a great year for table grape growers around the state.
“Overall, California table grape growers are expecting a larger crop,” says Barry Bedwell, President, California Grape & Tree Fruit League, which is estimating 90 million boxes this year, compared to a bit less than 80 million in 2006.
“Labor is tight, but growers are currently getting by. The real crunch on labor will be late August through early October,” he says.