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Grapes, A Bright Spot in Washington Agriculture

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington’s grape growers can look forward to a second year of improved prices in 1999, according to Ray Folwell, a Washington State University economist.

Writing in the 1999 Pacific Northwest Agricultural Situation and Outlook Report, released Wednesday (Dec. 30) by Washington State University, University of Idaho and Oregon State University economists, Folwell said Washington’s 1998 Concord grape crop was 144,489 tons, down 109,000 tons from a year earlier.

The U. S. crop was about 325,000 tons in 1998, down from 400,000 tons or more in recent years.

“Extremely low” inventories at the beginning of harvest bolstered the cash price for 16 degree brix grapes to $260 per ton. This was $10 ton higher than in 1997. Brix is a measure of sugar content.

“The price outlook in 1999 is good,” Folwell said. Prices should be at least stable. However, both Washington and the eastern production areas are poised to produce a large crop in 1999 given the current health of the vines.

Folwell said Washington’s 1998 wine grape crop is estimated at 70,000 tons, 8,000 tons more than in 1997. The average price for all wine grapes will be about $900 per ton, down from $972 in 1997.

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