Tim Hearden/Capital Press
It’s becoming a season of records for California’s fledgling table grape industry.
Shipments went out the door in August in record numbers, posting week-ending totals of more than 4 million 19-pound boxes three weeks in a row, according to the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission.
As growers enter the peak of their harvest, production in the Golden State is on a pace to reach 105.7 million boxes, topping last year’s record crop of 101.5 million boxes, commission president Kathleen Nave said.
“It’s moving fast,” Nave said. “The weather has been good and the fruit is very clean, meaning there’s not a lot of hand labor they have to do. It’s going well, and the harvest itself is moving fairly quickly.”
The picking of grapes for the fresh market began in late June and will likely continue into early December, with shipments proceeding through January, Nave said. The harvest typically starts in the Coachella Valley and then gets going in the San Joaquin Valley, where the bulk of the state’s table grapes are grown.
Fresh-market grape production is but a small portion of the overall grape crop. The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service office in Sacramento predicts raisin-grape growers will end up with a seasonal crop of 2.4 million tons, and California’s wine industry is coming off a 2012 grape crush that totaled a record high of nearly 4.4 million tons.
According to USDA data, more than 28 million boxes of California table grapes had been shipped as of Aug. 23. The 2013 year-to-date total is 10 percent ahead of last year, the commission reported in a news release.
Typically, more than 60 percent of the crop is shipped after Aug. 31, and more than 40 percent of the total crop is exported, according to the commission.
The panel attributes the record shipments to a growing consumer demand for fresh fruit, rated the top snack food and the fastest-growing snack food in America in a study by The NPD Group earlier this year.
Further, the panel cites data from FreshLook Marketing that shows gains in fruit sales and volume for a one-year period ending in July, compared to the same period ending in July 2012.
“There’s demand in the United States and all over the world,” Nave said. “It’s a combination of really good, quality fruit, the weather cooperating and demand coming in from all over the world.”
California Table Grape Commission: http://www.tablegrape.com