Market sources say berries are small and early season volume has been below normal because of the cumulative effect of drought in some growing areas and untimely rain in other regions. Promotable supply of Chilean grape isn’t anticipated until February.
The USDA reported f.o.b. prices for Chilean perlette grapes in mid-January were $24-26 per carton, up from $14-16 per carton at the same time a year ago
Manuel Alcaino of Decofrut said that the industry in Chile expects overall grape export volume to be off 2% to 4% compared with a year ago. Alternative markets like Korea, Indonesia, China, Brazil and others compete for fruit with the U.S.
"The reaction of the American market to these reduced volumes will be the clue to the final results; if prices keep strong, as they are now, the reduction will obviously be less," he said in an email. He also said the behavior of "La Niña" will be very important to the ability of the market to keep strong prices, Alcaino said.
More backup: The USDA’s Fresh Fruit Annual Report on Chile , released In late October, acknowledged the challenges of the Chilean deal:
From the executive summary:
In spite of favorable weather conditions during this last winter months (Jun-Aug. 2012) with almost no frost in most growing areas and sufficient cold hours accumulated which should have a positive effect on budding to assures a good production, the industry predicts a harvest volume similar to that of last year (an unusually low harvest due to adverse weather conditions). As severe drought continues to adversely affect a large area of table grape production output is expected to be similar in volume than the previous year.
The industry predicts a similar in volume to last year’s harvest as the northern production areas are being affected by a severe drought. The Atacama (Copiapo), Coquimbo and Valparaiso Region is being affected by this drought for the second year. This area represents an estimated 52 percent of the total planted area in the country. Chile produces over 36 varieties of table grapes for export. Thompson Seedless and Flame Seedless account for the bulk of production. Varieties like Red Globe, Superior Seedless, Crimson and Autumn Royal continued to increase in the last few years, as most of the replanting has been with these varieties. Table Grapes are planted from Atacama Region (Copiapo) to Maule Region (Curico-Talca). Crop Area Industry sources agree that new plantings are not likely for the next few years as economic returns have been affected by increasing costs and in general falling prices for table grapes. Additionally, a revaluation of the Chilean peso against the dollar has not being helping the fresh fruit export industry in general, as their cost are in pesos and the income is in dollars.
Stealing Chile’s sunshine or not, Peru’s season to date grape exports to the U.S. are also down, with 23.4 million pounds imported through Jan. 5 compared with 54 million pounds a year ago. Generally speaking, however, Peru is on the uptick. Check ouit the June 2012 USDA FAS report on Peruvian grapes.
TK: We love our grapes, but the business of delivering grapes to the North American market amid the challenges of exchange rates, weather, labor shortages and high energy costs is taxing the patience of grape exporters in Chile.