(May 28, 4:34 p.m.) A glut of late fruit from Chile has hurt markets for early-season grapes from California and Mexico, grower-shippers said.

About 560,000 pounds of grapes from Chile were shipped to the U.S. May 18-24, up from 90,000 pounds last year at the same time, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Some growers think markets could turn around soon. Others, however, aren’t so sure.

Coachella-based Peter Rabbit Farms began shipping perlettes and flames May 13-14, with sugraones following the week of May 19, said John Burton, general manager. The company began shipping sugraones in volume May 26, he said.

Peter Rabbit expects to ship flames, sugraones and a black variety new to the company this year — summer royals — until mid-June, Burton said. The company’s perlette deal was expected to wind down the week of May 26, he said.

Crown Jewels Marketing & Distribution LLC, Fresno, was shipping perlettes, flames, sugraones and black seedless from Mexico the week of May 26, said Atomic Torosian, a partner. Perlettes were expected to finish up by the end of the week and be replaced by globes, he said.

Temperatures in the 60s at night and in the 90s during the deal were yielding near-perfect color, crispness and taste on May product, Burton said.

“We couldn’t have asked for better weather,” he said. “A couple of rainstorms came through, but they stayed west of the vineyards.”

Steve Root, president and chief executive officer of East West Unlimited LLC, Coachella, Calif., also reported outstanding color and overall quality on flames shipping from Coachella in late May.

Root doesn’t mince words when it comes to Chile’s role in the 2008 deal — Chile, he said, has “destroyed” the 2008 Mexican and California grape deals.

“It’s a very difficult situation, and it’s going to take awhile to straighten out,” he said. “It’s probably cost me $10-15 a box, and that’s a shame. That’s money that could have stayed in the United States.”

On May 28, the USDA reported a price of $12.10 for 18-pound lugs of bagged large perlettes from Mexico, down from $20.95 last year at the same time.

Late shipments from Chile could affect markets through the summer, Root said. Late Chilean fruit clogged the market three or four years ago, he said, but the problem wasn’t as big then because Mexico didn’t have the volumes it has this year, he said.

It was frustrating, said Burton, that just when the valley was ready to start shipping peak-quality fruit, stores were flooded with lower-quality late grapes from Chile.

But by the last week of May, that was starting to change.

“Now it’s a pretty good deal, and I think it will be good for the next two weeks,” Burton said May 27.