Good Fruit Grower

January 2016

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16 JANUARY 1, 2016 GOOD FRUIT GROWER A continued stockpile of juice and juice con- centrate means growers can likely expect low prices again in 2016, but 2017 could prove to be brighter as that supply works its way onto the market. In 2014, U.S. growers produced their largest Concord crop since 2007 at 505,180 tons, a 12 percent increase from 2013. Washington, the largest producer, saw a 60 percent increase, harvesting 260,000 tons of Concord grapes. The resulting supply of juice and juice concentrate is depressing prices nationally and could result in a continued decline in acreage next year, according to Dr. Trent Ball, a partner in Agri-Business Consultants LLC and director of the viticulture and enology program at Yakima Valley Community College. Washington now has an estimated 19,300 acres — the lowest since 1978 — and could have fewer than 18,000 acres in 2016, Ball reported at the Washington State Grape Society's annual meeting in Grandview in November. Cash price per ton of Concord grapes remains at $110, the same as in 2014 but down from $225 per ton in 2013, and growers are at the breaking point, Ball said. "They are just covering variable costs. They are in survival mode, but they cannot operate at that price point long term and be sustainable." Growers have seen up-down cycles before, but even with a high yield in 2016, production won't be as high as in previous years because so many acres have come out of the ground, Ball said. "That's why I'm optimistic that it will start to turn around, because the adjustment is already taking place. Unfortunately, it just takes time to move out the inventory that already exists. And every processor has inventory." Record Brix Following a mild winter, growers experienced the highest number of growing degree days on record during the 2015 growing season. Harvest started and ended early, and fruit had the highest Brix level on record with small berries, good color and low acids. The Concord crop was below average of the past 10 years, coming in at 164,000 tons. Growers harvested an estimated 11,670 tons of white Niagara grapes, which comprise just 10 percent of Washington's juice grape crop, on about 1,500 acres. In Michigan, growers experienced no harsh freezes and harvested a slightly above average crop. In New York, the crop size was 90 percent of the long-term average. Yield per acre also was down, with one-third of Concord vineyards seeing significant bud damage due to a winter freeze. BIG supply = LOW prices 2016 Outlook Juice grape prices are likely to remain flat this year, but 2017 could be brighter for growers. by Shannon Dininny WILBUR-ELLIS & WASHINGTON TRACTOR ARE PROUD SUPPORTERS OF THE WASHINGTON STATE TREE FRUIT ASSOCIATION For information only. Not a label. Prior to use, always read and follow the product label directions. WILBUR-ELLIS logo and Ideas to Grow With are registered trademarks of Wilbur-Ellis Company. K-1215-833

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