Chilean grapes get chilly reception in California

06/25/2013 11:32:00 AM
Mike Hornick

Chile’s grape exports finished up in June, not a moment too soon for some California growers and shippers — especially in Coachella.

“Chile killed our grape deal,” Steve Root, president and chief executive officer of Coachella, Calif.-based East West Unlimited LLC, said June 4.

“They had a dock strike and couldn’t load their boats. They’re still bringing fruit into Philadelphia, and they’ve plugged up every chain in the U.S.”

“Chile usually slows down, but since the strike, they’ve brought in about 4 million boxes of crimsons against our crop,” Root said. “It cost California millions of dollars. They were marginal most of the year. Now you can’t get cheap enough.”

The impact on Mexico may have been greater.

“If Chile finished their deal in an orderly fashion, this thing would take off,” Root said. “But all of a sudden, Mexico’s numbers are down and it’s tough on them to make it.”

“Chile lingered, which had an impact on both coasts,” Jeff Olsen, vice president at Visalia, Calif.-based The Chuck Olsen Co., said June 6.

“Mexico is starting to get into some big volume. It wasn’t a great combination, but it got the market settled down and it seems like the red deal is starting to pick up.”

“There’s still some Chilean product coming in,” Pete Giotta, salesman at Tulare, Calif.-based Sundale Vineyards, said June 5. “Chile is usually done by this point. It’s Mexico and Coachella’s window. This year we’re a little early and they’re a little late.”

Giotta had hopes that grapes would pick up Fourth of July promotions comparable to watermelon or corn.

“Usually it’s a tough time for us to promote,” he said. “This year there should be plenty of grapes.”

“When we started flame production May 14 with Mexico and Coachella, there was still a large amount of crimsons in the marketplace,” George Matoian, sales and marketing director for Kingsburg, Calif.-based Visalia Produce Sales Inc., said June 5.

“Typically at that time the red seedless market is wide open. Chile is pretty much out now, but there are still some inventories here and there.”



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