After a subdued spring, grape volumes should come roaring back in June, with heavy promotions and excellent quality expected, importers said.

Mexican grape promotions should be heavy in June

Fred Wilkinson

Chilean and Mexican grapes could be fighting for retail shelf space soon, said John Pandol, director of special projects for Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Bros. Inc.

Delays caused first by the Chilean earthquake Feb. 26, later by a cool spring in Mexico, should soon be a thing of the past as supplies from the Sonora growing region kick into high gear — while at the same time the late Chilean crop is still hanging around.

“We should start seeing the new crop pushing against the old crop in an arm-wrestling match” over price, said John Pandol, director of special projects for Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Bros. Inc.

On May 25, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $18.10-20.10 for 18-pound lugs of large seedless flames from Mexico, down from $22.10-24.10 last year at the same time.

Demand for Mexican green grapes in late May was strong, but demand for reds was softer because of remaining crimson supplies from Chile, said Jared Lane, sales manager for Los Angeles-based Stevco Inc.

The week of May 24 was a transition week, though, with crimsons giving way to flames from Sonora and California’s Coachella Valley, Lane said.

As of May 25, Mexican volumes had been as low as in any year Miguel Suarez, president of Rio Rico, Ariz.-based MAS Melons & Grapes LLC, could remember.

But with warmer weather, that would soon change, he said, with flame volumes increasing weekly and the first sugraones and black varieties of the season shipping the week of May 31.

The market, Pandol said, is seeing the effects of the decision not to ship Chilean grapes for three weeks in March, in the aftermath of the earthquake. By the first week in June, retailers may switch entirely over to Mexican product, and some Chilean grapes could go unsold, Pandol said.

“There’s a big concern about grapes getting compressed into a shorter time frame,” he said. “The rate at which they hit the market is going to be a challenge. I just hope there are enough promotions in place to get this thing going.”

There is a concern about an oversupply in June, Lane said, but he was optimistic that high quality and strong retail support would keep fruit moving.

“It seems like there are quite a few ads set up for the first 10 or 15 days of June, which should help demand,” he said. “Retailers know there are plenty of supplies, and the quality is phenomenal this year, especially on flames.”

The Mexican harvest would likely last into the first week of July, about a week later than normal, because of the slow start to the deal, Suarez said.