Perfect Storm Hurts New York Concord Grape Growers

Concord grape growers are experiencing a perfect storm of sorts, with back-to-back seasons of bumper crops, a lack of a market, and increased pressure from Washington growers.

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The Buffalo News reports that more than 10,000 tons of grapes will be abandoned this season in Chautauqua County.

“In all my years as a farmer, I never remember anything like this,” Eric Huddy, president and co-founder of AgriAmerica in Silver Creek, NY, tells the Buffalo News.

The market for juice grapes in the U.S. is drying up as consumers preferences are straying from carbohydrate-rich drinks.

“One thousand tons would be a very high number for an average,” says Kevin Martin, a commodity specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Lake Erie Regional Grape Program in Portland, NY. “It’s not to say fruit never gets left in the canopy. Typically, it’s not a market issue.”

ConAgra Foods is expected to close the Carriage House juice and jelly making plant in Fredonia, NY. Cott Co., a beverage maker in Dunkirk, NY, has also reduced the amount of grower contracts by 25%.

“We came off a record crop last year; the worst thing could be a big crop again this year,” says James Kozlowski, who has grown grapes since 1978. “Supply and demand.”

In light of this juice grape surplus, New York Senator Charles Schumer made a push to lessen the tariff imposed by Israel on imported grapes from the U.S.

“The current glut of Concord grapes should not go to waste,” Schumer says. “There is a tremendous thirst for Concord grape juice in Israel, and we need the U.S. trade representative and the USDA to knock down the barriers that are standing in our way.”

Source: Buffalo News, GrowingProduce.com