(May 19) Grower-shippers of Mexican grapes may be viewing their season through a narrower window this year, but what they see looks good.

An unexpectedly cold winter in the Mexican desert pushed back the start of the Sonora grape deal four or five days, said Jerry Wagner, sales manager for Farmers Best International LLC, Nogales, Ariz.

While Mexico is getting off to a late start, the California’s San Joaquin deal was set to kick off about two weeks early, around May 20. But despite being squeezed at both ends, Wagner was optimistic.

“We’re a little late, but we expect good prices and demand, and as far as quality goes, the early perlettes look just bang-up,” Wagner said.

On May 18, the perlette deal for Farmers Best was in full swing, with the first flames to begin shipping May 19 and the first sugraones to begin shipping the week of May 23, Wagner said.

The flames and sugraones Wagner inspected in fields the week of May 16 also were of excellent quality, he added.

Perlettes from Mexico typically ship through the second week of June. Flames, sugraones, thompsons and fantasies ship through the second week in July and globes through the third week in July.

On May 18, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $26.85 for 18-pound bags of U.S. One large perlettes from Mexico, up from $14.35-16.35 last year around the same time. Mediums sold for $24.85. Large seedless flames from Mexico were going for $28.85, with mediums in the $26.85 range. Medium-large flames sold for about $18.35 last year around the same time.

Because of the cold weather in late winter and early spring, quantities shipped through mid-May were significantly down. About 39 million pounds had been shipped through May 15, down from 489 million pounds around the same time last year, according to the USDA.

U.S. quantities also were down. About 134 million pounds had been shipped through May 15, down from 215 million around the same time in 2003. Grape shipments from Chile also were down from last year.

Montie McGovern, co-director of Frank’s Distributing of Produce LLC, Nogales, said the perlette deal would be one of the smallest in recent years, and the verdict was still out on quantities of flames. Quantities of sugraones should be closer to normal.