Exporters balance U.S. business with other markets

01/17/2014 02:33:00 PM
Andy Nelson

Chilean grape exporters, as reliant as ever on North American markets, nevertheless are expanding their reach into other markets.

Continued strong demand from export markets other than the U.S. and Canada has been matched by a desire among many Chilean shippers to ship more to those markets, said Josh Leichter, general manager of Fresno, Calif.-based Pacific Trellis Fruit LLC.

“There’s still good demand from the Far East,” he said. “Overall, Chilean shippers have a more diversified approach. Last year a lot of grapes came to North America, and it caused some problems.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean there will be fewer Chilean grapes shipped to the U.S. and Canada in 2014, however.

“It’s to be determined if volumes will be down,” Leichter said. “Different people have different opinions.”

Mark Greenberg, president and chief executive officer of Capespan North America LLC, St. Laurent, Quebec, said exchange rate fluctuations should bode well for Chilean grape exporters this season.

“Chilean exporters are seeing a much weaker Chilean peso today than they did last year at this time,” Greenberg said. “Today, one dollar (U.S.) will return 530 pesos as compared to 470 pesos one year ago.”

That makes a big difference, Greenberg said, to growers who pay much of their fixed costs, especially labor, in pesos.

And it’s not just the dollar the peso against which its value has fallen.

“The peso has similarly declined substantially in value against the euro and the British pound over the last year,” he said. “It’s all very good for exporters.”

Chris DeSana, grape commodity manager for Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International, also said Chilean grape volumes slated for North America could be affected by demand from other markets — and by exchange rates.

“A combination of stronger global demand and a weak U.S. dollar has created a situation where less fruit seems to be programmed for the U.S.,” DeSana said. “The Chileans have been very successful in developing other markets, which has manifested itself into higher selling prices here in the U.S.”



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