Agronometrics in Charts: Hurricane Hilary Disrupts California’s Grape Season

By Agronometrics | 4 September 2023

In this installment of the ‘Agronometrics In Charts’ series, Sarah Ilyas studies the state of the US grape season. Each week the series looks at a different horticultural commodity, focusing on a specific origin or topic visualizing the market factors that are driving change.

The California Table Grape Commission has unveiled the impact of Hurricane Hilary on the state’s grape crop, estimating an initial loss of 25 million boxes, each weighing 8.6 kilograms.

Towards the end of August, Hurricane Hilary swept through California’s table grape vineyards, coinciding with the peak harvest period for the state’s diverse array of 90 grape varieties. Following the tempest, lingering rainfall and heightened humidity compounded challenges faced by growers.

According to John Pandol, director Pandol Bros., Inc., “Hilary will take a piece out of the middle of the season.” The  loss will be felt immediately, running to the middle of November. The crop should then be normal until it ends in late November. Pandol noted that California’s grape “crop insurance guys are filing potential claims already.”

grape volumes by variety 10

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

Prices this season reached record highs, culminating at $48.70 per package in week 21. While some stability was seen in weeks 30-33, the impact of the storm has caused prices to spike again. Week 34 witnessed pricing at $33.20 per package, 46% higher in comparison to 2022.

grape prices by history 14

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

grape prices by commodit 2

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

Kathleen Nave, President of the California Table Grape Commission, described the situation as “devastating and disheartening.” She noted the shock within the grower and farmworker community, emphasizing the seriousness of the situation. Given that approximately 30 percent of the crop had already been harvested when the hurricane struck, projections now suggest that an additional 35 percent of the remaining crop—equivalent to 25 million boxes—has been lost. Nave provided revised estimates for the California grape crop, indicating a total of 71.9 million 19-pound boxes. The last time the crop fell below the 75-million-box mark was in 1994. Considering California’s typical practice of shipping over 65 percent of its crop after September 1st, Nave pointed out that there are still over 45 million boxes of grapes slated for distribution.

Nave emphasized the industry’s commitment to ensuring that grapes reach retail stores and are promoted to consumers throughout the season. She also acknowledged retailers’ understanding of the storm’s impact and the potential rise in labor costs, emphasizing that pricing arrangements would need to support growers as they adapt to the extended harvesting timeline. Nave concluded by revealing the industry’s plans to monitor the situation in the coming weeks, providing necessary updates. The commission will continue its efforts in retail promotion and consumer advertising throughout the season, reflecting the resilience of California’s grape industry in the face of adversity.

In our ‘In Charts’ series, we work to tell some of the stories that are moving the industry. Feel free to take a look at the other articles by clicking here.

All pricing for domestic US produce represents the spot market at Shipping Point (i.e. packing house/climate controlled warehouse, etc.). For imported fruit, the pricing data represents the spot market at Port of Entry.

You can keep track of the markets daily through Agronometrics, a data visualization tool built to help the industry make sense of the huge amounts of data that professionals need to access to make informed decisions. If you found the information and the charts from this article useful, feel free to visit us at where you can easily access these same graphs, or explore the other 21 commodities we currently track.

Written by: Sarah Ilyas

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