While demand for grapes feels similar to last year at this time, export demand feels particularly good. “I do feel like we have more export demand than last year which is encouraging,” says Jared Lane of Grapeman Farms. “Export demand completely fell off during COVID and now it feels like we have a little bit more.”
Following last year’s logistics issues, has shipping overseas gotten any easier again? “They have added more boats and there’s more room on the boats. But they’re just not as frequent--so maybe not available every week but every three weeks. That’s a little challenging,” says Lane.
Interestingly, consumer trends are also developing within domestic demand. “With inflation, people need more money and things they would cut out are luxury items. They buy whatever fruit’s on sale. It’s becoming more and more that fruit moves when it’s on sale and very stagnant off-sale,” says Lane.
That said, this year’s crop of grapes from California looks robust through to the first of the year with some varieties setting slightly heavier than others. “A lot of the older varieties were taken out due to low productivity,” says Lane, who notes that the newer, younger fields are more heavyset. Grapeman Farms has some new high-flavor varieties that are producing well including the red grape Jack Salutes and the Great Green, a mid-season green grape.
Harvest is well underway and ramping up throughout the next two to three weeks when peak supplies are anticipated to arrive and stay at those peak levels until October. “Stone fruit is starting to finish as are other crops so we’re hoping we can get a good push for the next couple of months. Then we’ll go into our storage program in November and December,” says Lane.