Ag office confirms banner year for grapes

2012 produced both quantity and quality, report says
2013-04-09T16:48:00Z 2013-04-09T18:45:32Z Ag office confirms banner year for grapesPETER JENSEN Napa Valley Register
April 09, 2013 4:48 pm  • 

A great year for wine grapes means a great year for Napa County agriculture, and 2012 was just that.

A new report from the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office spells out just how sterling last year’s record-high harvest of wine grapes was — total value reached $656,236,100, a 54 percent increase over 2011, and total production peaked at 182,859 tons, 50 percent more than 2011.

The average price per ton for all wine grape varieties was $3,589, which was the highest in California, according to the report.

The wine grape harvest last year was the main force in pushing the overall value of Napa County’s agricultural production up to $665,298,100, although other crops saw spikes in valuation as well.

The report’s wine grape numbers are largely in line with the preliminary crush statistics released by the California Department of Food and Agriculture in February. So while the numbers may not be a surprise to grape growers by now, they prove once again how vital the wine industry is to Napa’s economic fortunes, said Jennifer Putnam, executive director of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers.

“I think for us to have a year like that, it reiterates the strength of our industry,” Putnam said. “Any resident of Napa County can pick up that report and be really proud of what they’re a part of.”

In presenting the report to the Napa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Agricultural Commissioner Dave Whitmer said 2012 provided grape growers great tonnage with healthy prices, and a rebound from the low yields of 2011.

Last year “was one of those years when the stars lined up — the crop was big and the price was big,” Whitmer said. “People were taken by surprise by how much fruit was taken in.”

Cabernet sauvignon led all varieties in tonnage, with 71,470 tons; chardonnay followed with 31,933 tons, and merlot came in third with 25,327 tons.

These three varietals hit three-year highs in their average price per ton. Cabernet sauvignon earned $5,060 per ton, Chardonnay earned $2,354 and Merlot earned $2,649.

Wine grapes were not alone in seeing increased value in 2012, according to the report.

Olive growers saw the largest increase in their crop’s value, from $67,500 in 2011 to $664,700 in 2012. The report states that olives received good weather when they were blooming, and the slight precipitation totals in the fall left growers with smaller olives. Total tonnage still increased from 200 in 2011 to 287 last year.

Field crops such hay and pasture land saw an increase in total value to $637,800, compared to $443,000 in 2011. Hay plantings jumped in 2012, from 265 acres in 2011 to 624 acres last year, and that was accompanied by a $5-per-ton price increase.

Floral and nursery plants, such as cut flowers and nursery stock, increased in value from $2,303,400 in 2011 to $3,074,100 last year.

Livestock and poultry saw a modest drop in value in 2012, to $3,709,500 from $3,906,600 in 2011.

Vegetable crops saw a slight bump in value, to $228,700 in 2012 compared with $225,000 in 2011.

“The value of other crops and livestock held its own,” Whitmer said. “The agricultural industry is in a good spot.”

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