Stevco’s table grape harvest in Coachella Valley began mid-May, a little later than last year, a delay that company president Dave Clyde attributes to high winds in March and excessive heat in April, both of which slowed fruit growth.
By early June the weather had cooled 10 degrees to 15 degrees below normal 100-105-degree highs, he notes, and “June is shaping up as the coolest June on record.”
But, the cooler weather is cutting both ways — while it’s helping color the Flame Seedless, which had not been slowed, it has been slowing sugar development in the Thompson seedless.
“The Flames have been up in the 17 to 18 Brix range,” Clyde says. “We need a least 16.5 Brix for the Thompson Seedless, but they’ve been around 14 to 15. Some of the greens won’t sugar this year.”
Production has been down a bit due to smaller berry sizes, he says. Stevco plans to ship about 400,000 packages from the company’s Coachella vineyards this year.
But, Clyde is happy because prices have been in the low to mid-$20 per box range — much improved over last year and reflecting very good demand and tight supplies.
“These higher prices will help make up for the lower production and the increased labor costs as a result of waiting to allow the red grapes to color. I’ll take the better prices and pay the extra costs for picking the grapes.”
Clyde expects to wind up the Coachella Valley harvest the end of June, before focusing his attention on the company’s much larger table grape operation in the San Joaquin Valley. He expects that harvest to begin the first week of July.