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Grapeco says all signs point to good grape crop for San Joaquin Valley

By
Keith Loria

The team at Grapeco Farms, a Delano, CA-based company that was founded by industry veterans Jared Lane and Robert Cadena, is busy at work with the Mexican grape season, which is one of the strongest production areas for the company.

Grapeco is one of the first farms to get started with early fruit, and also one of the last to finish.

“We started Mexico a little bit later than we thought we would due to the cold March,” Lane said. “We started harvesting right around May 13, and volume is ramping up, and it looks like it’s going to be a very fruitful Mexican season.”

That should mean good promotions for retailers with Grapeco offering a good supply to meet the demand.grapeco

“In 2024, we started off our import season very active; the market was very active with very good demand,” Lane said. “Peru finished up really early. The Southern region of Chile was extremely late in timing and a lot of the fruit came here post-marketing order, probably the most number of grapes we’ve received this late.”

Combined with the retail prices being high due to light supplies, the markets slowed down a bit.

When it comes to the San Joaquin Valley-grown grapes, it’s early but all the signs point to a very nice crop. The company works a little under 3,000 acres in California.

“Bunch counts are good, vines are growing vigorously, I think there’s going to be a good crop there,” Lane said. “We are coming off a year that was extremely abnormal with the hurricane, which happens once in every 40 years. If we have normal growing conditions, I expect it to be a very fruitful year.”

So, all the limitations for Grapeco and others should be a thing of the past for the upcoming season.

The San Joaquin Valley offers one of the most fertile growing grounds because it typically doesn’t have the late driving rains and it’s a dry atmosphere, which allows the grapes to grow free of fungus and decay.

“The grounds are very fertile and the water situation in California is ok right now; we had a decent winter, so that’s not an issue,” Lane said. “The biggest challenge for the grape industry outside of water is labor. Wages in California have increased so much in the last few years that it increased our growing cost. Since 60-65 percent of input costs for grapes is labor, it makes it a little more challenging when customers want to keep prices similar year over year.”

The company aligned itself with Etchegaray Farms which supplies the early Season product with premium varieties, combined with a cold storage and packinghouse. Grapeco also ships from Royal Madera which is the furthest north packer which packs allot of storage tubs which is packed fresh in December to the customer needs.

Just about any grape variety can grow well in California, but Lane warns against planting new varieties without learning enough about them.

“I think we need to step back and analyze these new varieties longer before we plant them,” he said. “Getting the consumer to learn all these new varieties can be a challenge also.”

The goal of Grapeco is to provide a good quality product at a good price year-round and that’s more important than becoming the biggest grape shipper in California. “We expect to grow each year with the growth of our ranches and customers” Lane said.

Keith Loria

Keith Loria

About Keith Loria  |  email

A graduate of the University of Miami, Keith Loria is a D.C.-based award-winning journalist who has been writing for major publications for close to 20 years on topics as diverse as real estate, food and sports. He started his career with the Associated Press and has held high editorial positions at magazines aimed at healthcare, sports and technology. When not busy writing, he can be found enjoying time with his wife, Patricia, and two daughters, Jordan and Cassidy.

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