Heading into the deal’s final weeks, Chilean grapes are still lagging behind last season’s volumes.

As the Chilean deal gets closer to its spring end, there are no signs of a last-minute surge in volumes, said John Pandol, special projects manager for Pandol Bros. Inc., Delano, Calif.

“Volumes are still below expectations,” Pandol said. “People are saying that ‘it’s late rather than light,’ but in reality the deal is light. With five or six weeks to ship, I don’t see them catching up.”

Shipments through late February are still lagging behind 2012 totals, Pandol said — a surprise, given that crops suffered severe freeze damage last season.

While Chilean exports are down by nearly 18% this season, and exports to the U.S. are down slightly compared to last year, U.S. exports are recovering, said Karen Brux, North American managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, Sonoma, Calif.

“Recent weeks have been showing a strong increase in arrivals, mainly in the later varieties, like crimson,” Brux said.

In addition, retail pricing is strong and steady, Brux said.

“As more fruit arrives to the market, there will be ample opportunities to promote throughout the month of March,” she said.

On Feb. 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $22-24 for containers of extra-large flames from Chile, up from $18-20 last year at the same time.

The association’s merchandising team is working with retailers nationwide on promotions for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Passover and National Nutrition Month, Brux said.

It’s not just volumes that have been a problem this season, Pandol said.

“There are a surprising amount of condition problems, mostly on flames,” he said. “We’re having to recondition, which is unusual.”

That has created a strong market for grapes in good condition, particularly larger ones, Pandol said.

All in all, Pandol is looking ahead to a better season out of Chile in 2014.

“It’s kind of depressing,” he said. “We have people asking when Mexico is going to start.”