Posted: Thursday, May 03, 2012 11:00 AM
Tim Hearden/Capital Press
Grapes in a bag are ready to be washed and eaten. The California Table Grape Commission expects to harvest more than 100 million boxes of grapes in the upcoming season, which will begin soon.
California produces most of the grapes grown in U.S.
By TIM HEARDEN
As table grape harvests begin in California this month, a state panel predicts growers will ship the equivalent of more than 101.6 million 19-pound boxes this season.
That would be up from the more than 98 million boxes shipped last year and the 99 million produced the year before, said Kathleen Nave, president of the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission.
"We have had over 100 million boxes on the vine probably for the last three seasons, but the effect of weather could mean we have a slightly smaller crop when all is said and done," Nave said. "This is a pretty normal-sized crop for us. If we get the right weather, we should get a nice crop."
California's fresh grape season begins each May, and grapes from California are available around the world through January, according to the commission. The Golden State produces 99 percent of the commercial fresh grapes grown in the U.S. and exports to more than 60 countries.
Last year, 41 percent of the total volume was sent overseas, or 57.8 million 19-pound box equivalents, the commission reported.
In April, growers continued to prepare for the season by pruning and spraying their vineyards, according to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service crop weather reports. Grapevines continued to leaf out and entered the shoot elongation stage, the reports stated.
The table grape industry has grown significantly since the early 1970s, when only a little more than 20 million boxes were shipped a year, according to the commission. The panel now has marketing projects going in 25 countries that represent about 92 percent of the volume of exports, and is running domestic TV and magazine ads promoting grapes as part of a healthy diet, Nave said.
"The table grape industry is a growing industry, and it's an industry that is multigenerational for the most part and it has a longstanding history of reinvesting," she said. "What we see are new vineyards going in and new production practices taking place, so what we're seeing is a slow but steady increase in volume."
California Table Grape Commission: http://www.tablegrape.com/