While eastern and northeastern Mexico have been gripped by a cold snap this week, the situation is markedly different for table grape producers in the northwestern state of Sonora.
Sonora Spring Grapes director Juan Alberto Laborin told Fresh Fruit Portal right now it was “the colder the better” for grape vines in dormancy, but unfortunately this winter had been atypical.
“Right now we have the lowest level of chill hour accumulation that we’ve seen in the last 10 years. It’s been around 100 chill hours when we would normally have around 200 chill hours by now,” Laborin said.
He emphasized this was just one of several key factors – including rain and growing techniques – that could impact on the final crop.
While it may be too early to tell how the situation will affect the fruit, he said fewer chill hours generally led to lower volume on the farm. But it is worth noting that Mexico has undergone significant planting expansion which could potentially offset any declines.
We have been harvesting at the same time for many years, and we even have more volume already in Guaymas and in Jalisco where harvests could be the same if not even a little bit earlier; we’d be talking about the last two weeks of April,” he said.
“2017 was a record year in exports in Mexico with 21 million boxes, and we’re estimating that we could go higher than this if there are no negative weather events.
“Regardless of the accumulation of chill hours or not, the quality of the product will not change. What weather issues could change is volume, but the quality will be the same and very good.”
Jerry Havel of Nogales-based Fresh Farms, affiliated with Mexican grower the Molina Group, echoed Laborin’s comments that the weather has been unseasonably warm in Sonora and that it was too early to make predictions.
“Right now the biggest problem we’re having in Sonora is it’s not cold enough – there’s not enough chilling hours yet. We won’t know what that will do to the crop until the set starts coming out, and that won’t happen until February,” Havel said.
“If you don’t get any chilling hours it can lead to a lighter crop – less set, bigger berries…but once you get bigger berries, how much is the crop lighter? It’s too early to tell you anything specific.”