California Table Grape Industry Continues Record-Breaking Shipping Season
California table grape growers shipped more than 27.7 million boxes into the worldwide marketplace from October 13 to November 30, the highest amount ever for the time period, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The previous seven-week shipment record during the same time period was set in 2013. Earlier this season, the five-week shipping record for the time period between September 8 through October 12 was broken.
The three-month period of September 1 to November 30 set another record with over 55 million boxes of grapes shipped—an all-time high, according to USDA, beating the previous record set in 2013 for this time period.
According to Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission, an aggressive fall and winter promotion program continues, with shipments expected to continue through the end of January.
Food Banks, Other Food Programs to Get Grapes as Part of Tariff Mitigation Program
New Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently completed a purchase of more than 450,000 boxes of California table grapes as part of its tariff mitigation program.
California table grapes were included in the USDA Food Purchasing Program for the first time as part of the mitigation program because of the 53 percent tariff imposed on U.S. grapes by China.
According to the most recent USDA data, shipments of California grapes to China are down 42.2 percent in volume and 41.2 percent in value in 2018 compared to 2017.
“The 2018 season has been a tough one for table grape growers,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission. “The tariffs on table grapes have been painful, but the real harm has been caused by the fact that tariffs on multiple competing commodities, such as cherries, stone fruits, and apples, caused more fruit of all kinds to be sold in the domestic market. The USDA purchasing program comes at a good time for table grape growers and is appreciated.”
Table grape suppliers interested in participating in the food purchasing program had to go through a rigorous process to become a USDA vendor and then if approved, submit bids in a competitive process. Multiple Valley companies were awarded the opportunity to supply California grapes to customers across the country.
The grapes will be distributed to food banks and other food programs around the country, starting in December.
The California grape season is beginning, and the harvest will continue into the winter. California Ag Today recently spoke with Kathleen Nave, president of the Fresno based California Table Grape Commission, about table grapes.
The California Table Grape Commission was established by an act of the state legislature in 1967 and approved by a grower referendum in 1969. The purpose of the commission is to maintain and expand markets for fresh California grapes and to create new, larger interstate and foreign markets.
“We are just getting started with a California season. We will be picking grapes all the way into December,” Nave said.
Grapes are a spring, summer, fall and early winter fruit. Sixty percent of the table grapes that are harvested in the state of California are harvested after September first.
“I would just ask people to remember that they can enjoy California grapes in the spring and the summer, in the fall and into the early winter,” Nave said.
There are new varieties of California table grapes. These grapes have been grown by and designed to provide more product for the customer.
“New varieties of grapes were created that would allow growers to continue growing and harvesting in the late October, November, and December time period,” Nave explained.
These varieties were created with the climate in mind. This way, they can thrive and be packed and shipped in November and early December.
“It takes a long time to develop new varieties of table grapes, get them out in the field, learn how to grow them and to get them to the marketplace,” Nave said.
With grape season in full swing, there’s an abundance of fresh, local grapes in our grocery stores. While our farmers are hard at work, so is the California Table Grape Commission, and their president Kathleen Nave. They are not only making their presence known in the media but are constantly doing research to improve the industry as a whole.
The California Table Grape Commission has been doing viniculture research since 1972 and is funded by growers.
“The commission does a lot of research on ways in which to help growers grow more grapes more efficiently,” Nave said.
This is done by trying to figure out how to grow grapes with fewer inputs, an example being less water.
Nave also explained the research they do to find the benefits of eating grapes, saying, “We do a lot of health research on those 1,600 phytonutrients that are found in grapes to try to pin down the ways in which grapes are good for us, as it relates to various disease states.”
Although research is huge for the commission, Nave described their relationship with retailers in the U.S., Canada, and about 30 other countries as “the heart of the commission’s work.” This includes urging retailers to promote grapes by putting them on the shelf, offering multiple varieties, and carrying California grapes from May to January.
In addition, Nave talked about the major presence the commission is making in the media in order to reach consumers.
“We’re on The Food Network [on] television as well as The Cooking Channel, and then we do a lot on social media,” Nave said.
The commission is active on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. In fact, Nave noted that their social media presence has quadrupled in the past two years.
Their goal is to showcase the beauty and versatility of California Grapes and make known the quality of work that the California table grape growers are doing every day.
You might want to take a second look when reaching for fresh grapes in your local grocery store, said Kathleen Nave, president of the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission. She urged buyers to choose California table grapes when grocery shopping.
“It can be convenient to reach for the nearest bag in the store when turning to grapes for a healthy snack, but what if we told you those grapes could be from places as far as Mexico or Chile? What if we then gave you the option to have some right out of your backyard?” Nave asked.
“If you have the choice, please choose the California grapes, because those are the grapes that are supporting our rural communities here,” she said.
Nave explained that the California Grape Commission is pushing retailers hard to get their grapes up on the shelf, and they need consumers to support them. She said that if the bag says U.S., then it is from California, as California grows 99 percent of the grapes that are commercially produced in the United States.
Nave explained that the best way to make sure you are buying local is by asking.
“Ask your produce manager for U.S. or for California grapes. That’ll make a big difference,” she said.
California table grapes are now being harvested. Kathleen Nave, president of the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission told California Ag Today that fresh grapes are now available in local stores.
“California table grape growers began picking a couple of weeks ago, and consumers should be able to find California grapes in their stores today. And certainly, as the season progresses, grapes will be more and more available,” Nave said.
Consumers should be buying grapes for the taste as well as good health.
“Grapes contain about 1600 different phytonutrients—all kinds of things that are really good for us, and many important vitamins. There’s something magical in grapes that appears to have a lot of potential health benefits.”
Nave said she tells people that they need to be eating grapes basically every day because there’s something really good for us in the combination of things that are in grapes, and that’s grapes of all colors: red, green and black.
“They definitely taste great. Kids love them. So you know, they’re a healthy snack. They look beautiful when you add them to things like salads or you know, even pizza. You can even roast them. So they’re amazingly versatile and then they’re so good for us,” Nave said.
There are about 450 table grape operations in the state, from Southern California to Madera.
“There are vineyards in the Coachella Valley. We have long had a group of growers growing grapes in the desert,” Nave said. “Those are the earliest grapes that are available and are found in stores now, And then of course in the San Joaquin Valley, we have table grape growers from the Tehachapi Mounts North into the Madera area.”
117.4M Boxes of Grapes Shipped Surpasses the $100M Mark for Second Time in History
It was announced TODAY that California shipped a record volume of 117.4 million boxes (116.2 19-pound box equivalents) of fresh California grapes during the 2013 season, a total crop value of $1.7 billion.
The 2013 season started with shipments in early May and continued into February 2014. California produces 99 percent of the commercial fresh grapes grown in the United States.
“Over the past 10 years the volume has significantly increased,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission. “In 2003 the crop was under 80 million boxes. In 2012 the 100 million box mark was crossed for the first time in history, and in 2013 another record was set with the crop totaling 117.4 million boxes.”
Exports also hit a new record in volume, with 48.6 million boxes shipped to export markets including Canada – a 17 percent increase over the previous year. The top export markets in volume included Canada at 11.9 million, followed by China/Hong Kong at 7.9 and Mexico at 6.6. The 48.6 million boxes exported represented 41 percent of the total crop volume.
With the 2014 season a little over a month away, the commission is gearing up its global campaign for Grapes from California which includes retail, consumer and foodservice programs.