What’s ahead for California table grapes, strawberries and cherries

From The Packer | 24 April 2023

Overview of strawberries, grapes and cherries from California in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on April 24, 2023. 

California’s table grape, strawberry and cherry industries all seem headed to promising year after a tough growing season characterized by rain, snow and unusually low winter temperatures.

TABLE GRAPES

The California table grape season will begin in the Coachella Valley with harvesting estimated to start in mid-to-late May, said Kathleen Nave, president of the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission.

Harvesting in the San Joaquin Valley should begin in late June or early July. Though the initial season estimate was not available at press time, early expectations are that the 2023 crop will be comparable to or slightly larger than last season’s 95.1 million 19-pound boxes.

all commodities volumes

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Autumn King, Scarlet Royal, Sheegene-20, flame and Sheegene-21 varieties accounted for 47% of the total volume in 2022. Exports accounted for 30% of the volume last season. The top three markets included Canada, Mexico and Taiwan.

“An aggressive marketing campaign is planned for 2023 to increase demand for California table grapes in both domestic and export markets by motivating retailers to move volume throughout the season and motivating primary shoppers to choose California grapes,” Nave said.

STRAWBERRIES

The strawberry deal was still headed toward recovery in early April, with shipments much lower than last year.

As of the week ending April 1, California shipments of conventional and organic strawberries totaled 8.5 million trays, down from 20 million at the same time in 2022, according to the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission.

Fall-planted acreage for 2023 winter, spring and summer production was 31,852 acres, up from 30,499 in 2022. About 45% of the acreage is in the Watsonville growing region, 34% is in the Santa Maria area and 20% is in Oxnard. Although some acreage was lost due to a levee break along the Pajaro River in March, about 95% of the strawberry crop was undamaged from the storm, said Jeff Cardinale, director of communications for the commission.

That should lead to “an outstanding season for retailers and consumers,” he said.

CHERRIES

California’s cherry crop will come on seven to 10 days later than usual, with picking beginning in late April or early May, grower-shippers say.

The official crop estimate for 2023 had not been released at press time, but growers project that this year’s crop will be slightly larger than last year’s 5.2 million 18-pound boxes, which is down from about 10 million boxes the year prior, mostly because of an unusually warm winter.

“This year, we got plenty of chill hours,” said Keith Wilson, owner of King Fresh Produce LLC, Dinuba, Calif. Still, some growers reported a light crop because of the rain and cold weather.

“With the varieties we’re growing here, you just never know how the crop is going to set or what weather patterns will be,” said Wilson, who expected promotable volume by May 20.

“We’re going to definitely need to promote,” he said.

There should be ample organic cherries as well, said Maurice Cameron, president of The Flavor Tree Fruit Co. LLC, Hanford, Calif. The company, which he said may be the largest organic cherry producer is California, increased its organic acreage “substantially” this year.

California is the first state to produce cherries each year and should continue to ship until about the third week of June.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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