Green grape volumes from Chile will likely wind up being 25% lower than last year by season’s end, said Brian Schiro, grape category manager for Jac Vandenberg Inc., Yonkers, N.Y.
By the week of March 10, most growers had wrapped up their green harvests for the season, Schiro said. With dry, warm growing weather, quality should be good for the balance of the deal, but volumes will be tight, Schiro said.
“At the end of March, green prices should shoot up, and April has the potential for very strong markets.”
On March 11, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $24-26 for 18-pound containers of bagged extra large Thompson seedless grapes from Chile, up from $18-20 last year at the same time.
Chilean crimsons, on the other hand, were just entering peak production in the first half of March, with peak U.S. arrivals expected in late March and early April, Schiro said.
“The red markets should come off a little as we get move into the peak, but they should still be fairly steady,” he said.
Vandenberg expects excellent quality and good sizing on crimsons, with fruit peaking on larges and extra-larges, Schiro said.
As of early March, 2013-14 exports year-to-date were 22% lower than last year at the same time, said Karen Brux, North American managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, San Carlos, Calif.
“Regardless of the decrease in volume, we’re working with numerous retailers across the U.S. and Canada on grape promotions,” Brux said.
At the beginning of March, the association launched a program that rewards retailers who build displays of grapes with the association’s new point of sale materials, Brux said. Chains that have signed on represent more than 1,000 stores.
Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International expects a big uptick in its grape volumes this season, said Chris DeSana, grape commodity manager.
“We expect our volumes to be up dramatically both in Chile and Mexico — as much as 50%,” he said.
Size was a struggle on Chilean flames, DeSana said, but the company was encouraged by sizing and quality on its early Crimson arrivals, DeSana said.
Size and quality of the company’s green seedless Chilean imports, meanwhile, have been excellent all season, he said.
Severe September freezes in Chile had a direct affect on some markets, DeSana said.
“Both Flame and sugraone volumes were off dramatically, leading to historically high f.o.b. and retail pricing,” he said.
Volumes were starting to build by early March, which should mean more retail promotional support through the first week of April, DeSana said.
An early end to the Chilean deal could be good news for Mexican shippers, DeSana said.
“The Chilean harvest is running 7 to 10 days ahead of previous seasons, which could lead to an empty pipeline when Mexico enters the market.”