John Pandol, a partner in Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Bros. Inc., said he expects Chilean grape volumes shipped to the U.S. and Canada to rise this year, and for North America to take a bigger slice of the total Chilean export pie.
Economic malaise in Europe is one cause of that, Pandol said. Another is a strengthening of North American grape markets.
“We’ve had pretty good prices over the past year, with the exception of July,” Pandol said. “We broke through that 99 cents-a-pound ceiling. That’s in the past.”
Chilean acreage is similar to last season, which wasn’t expected by some shippers including Pandol, who had expected a contraction in acreage in the country.
“They’re calling for a full crop, which is a surprise,” he said.
On Nov. 11, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $22.10-24.10 for 19-pound containers of large crimson seedless grapes from California, up from $16.10-18.10 last year at the same time.
Fruit was being harvested at slower-than-expected rates the weeks of Dec. 3 and Dec. 10, but the pace should pick up the week of Dec. 17, said Josh Leichter, general manager of Reedley, Calif.-based Pacific Trellis Fruit LLC.
The first boat of the season was arriving for Pacific Trellis the weekend of Dec. 15-16, with fruit available for shipping Dec. 17 or Dec. 18.
“By the first week of January, we should see things pick up, and back to expected weekly volumes,” Leichter said.
Volumes should start peaking in the third or fourth week of January, he said. Quality and condition should be very good, though big fruit should be at a premium because of a smaller size profile.
Volume shipments of Chilean grapes for Pandol Bros. won’t likely begin arriving until the third week of January, Pandol said. Pandol Bros. expects a similar varietal mix as last year. Chile is slower than other regions to experiment with new grape varieties because of a slow quarantine review process, Pandol said.
The end of December could be an interesting one for grape marketers, with product from four growing regions — Chile, California, Brazil and Peru — in the pipeline at the same time, Leichter said.
“The idea will be to keep fruit moving, hopefully at levels that are acceptable to growers.”