Retailers should have access to be plenty of table grapes to meet consumer demands through the dreary days of winter thanks to better weather during Chile’s growing season this year compared to last.
In addition to a return to normal volumes, the Chilean table grapes are just in time to fill any gaps created by an early end to the grape deal in some areas of California this year.
John Pandol, a partner in Pandol Bros. Inc., Delano, Calif., said the California harvest usually runs into early December. No so this year.
“We stopped picking Nov. 17,” Pandol said Dec. 26, adding that less than 5% of California’s crop is left.
Earlier in December Pandol and other U.S. importers said they thought the Chilean grapes would peak in late January. That may hold true, but the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association expects that peak period to last a little longer than it did for the 2011-12 season.
Tom Tjerandsen, the association’s managing director for North America, said he “expects to have promotable volumes through April 10,” when the marketing agreement cuts off grape imports from Chile.
“Since last Tuesday (Dec. 18) there has been a lot of concern regarding the weather in the blueberry and cherry areas and what impact it would have on the grapes,” Tjerandsen said.
“Now most people are saying it didn’t impact the grapes at all and we should be back to normal volumes this season.”
The Chilean Fresh Fruit Association is aggressively promoting table grapes through social media, retailer display contests and point-of-sale materials, Tjerandsen said. He said retailers can download materials for free on the association’s website or obtain them through their merchandising representatives.
Both Tjerandsen and Pandol said they anticipate solid prices for the Chilean deal, though neither expects to see wholesale numbers stabilize until February. Pandol predicted an f.o.b. in the “high teens” when the market settles down.
“If it gets below the high teens, the Chileans will stop shipping,” Pandol said.
Mark Greenberg of Capespan North America, St. Laurent, Quebec, noted in a weekly report that the first Chilean table grapes of the season arrived in the U.S. Dec. 15. Greenberg was expecting prices for the end of December to be in the $34-$36 range for sugarone and thompson seedless.
The first shipment of popular Chilean flames was a little light, Greenberg’s report said. He anticipated prices of $34-$38 for the red seedless flames.
Greenberg and Pandol are both watching Peru’s table grape production, as is Tjerandsen. All three said Peru’s export volumes to the U.S. are so low that the South American country’s impact on the table grape deal is not expected to be too dramatic.
“It is the new sexy thing, though,” Pandol said. “Timing is the key for Peru. The question is will they challenge Chile. We haven’t seen any yet.”
Pandol said Peru ships about as many seedless grapes in its entire season as the Golden State does in a week.