Yields in Stevco, Inc., table grape vineyards in the Coachella and San Joaquin Valleys last year were about 20 percent below normal.

“The drop in yields was sporadic,’ says Dave Clyde, company president. “We didn’t have any insect or disease problems, so we think it was related to weather.”

Demand for table grapes was good, and he predicts this year it will be as good, if not better. The willingness of consumers to spend money on healthy foods, including table grapes, more than offset any impact of the sluggish economy on sales of these products, Clyde says.

“Consumers are more health conscious and are better educated about the health benefits of table grapes. When they find a good product like this that tastes good and is good for them, they’ll buy it.”

He expects his company’s grape production to increase in 2010 as recent new plantings come into bearing. “Hopefully, we’ll also see bigger yields that are closer to what we normally get.”

Clyde has high hopes for Stevco’s newest variety, Autumn King, which they will harvest this year for the first time. The late season green, seedless grape features larger berries and should fit the market well, he believes.

“2009 was the first year for any significant production of Autumn King in the state,” Clyde says. “It has captured everyone’s attention, and from what we’ve seen of it, it’s very promising. About two-thirds of the industry’s production is red grapes, and we’ve reached the point where we don’t have enough green grapes, so the market can bear this new variety. Because it’s a late green grape it should do very well for growers.”