The Mexican grape deal should get off to a later start than usual, but volumes should be abundant and quality and size excellent, importers say.

Rio Rico, Ariz.-based Fresh Farms won’t likely ship its first Mexican grapes until May 15 at the earliest, about five to seven days later than normal, said Jerry Havel, the company’s director of sales and marketing.

“They had a really cold winter and a cool spring,” Havel said.

Dave Clyde, president of Los Angeles-based Stevco Inc., also reported a late start. But he said it should be offset by excellent quality.

“It’s late by about ten days,” Clyde said. “But the crop looks very good.”

On April 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $20-22 for containers of extra-large crimson seedless grapes from Chile, down from $22-24 last year at the same time.

Volume shipments aren’t likely until May 22-24, too late to take advantage of Memorial Day pull, Havel said. Memorial Day is May 28, which is on the early side.

But Fresh Farms isn’t overly worried about that lost opportunity, Havel said.

“Prices are usually so high for Memorial Day, it’s hard to set promotions,” he said. “It’s not really a big deal.”

In a typical year, Fresh Farms will ship 25% of its Mexican grapes in May, 75% after, Havel said. This year, because of the later start, the company will likely ship just 15-20% in May.

Havel expects excellent quality and a wide range of sizes from the get-go out of Mexico this season.

“There’s going to be great quality and plenty of really nice grapes to promote,” he said. “It’s a little heavier crop than last year, so size should be a little better.”

Fresh Farms will start its season with perlettes, Havel said. Flames and other varieties should follow about six days later.

Market conditions at the beginning of both the Mexican and the Coachella Valley, Calif., grape seasons could hinge on how well the remainder of the Chilean grape deal goes, said Jim Llano, account sales manager for Delano, Calif.-based Castle Rock Vineyards.

“A lot is trying to come in, and how much of that is sold prior to the beginning of the Coachella and Mexico seasons is the big question.”

Quality has been an issue late in the Chilean deal, Llano said.