Josh Leichter, director of the grape category in the Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppenheimer Group’s Newark, Del. office, said that even with all the talk about a shortage of volume, retailers should not be too concerned.
“It’s important that retailers realize there still will be promotable volumes of grapes,” he said. “It’s an important item in stores in winter months as far as driving sales.”
Chilean grape suppliers are closely monitoring signs that the weather phenomena El Niño, known for causing heavy unseasonal rains, may be weaker this year.
Leichter said normally this time of year Chile does not have rain, but in an El Niño year, there is the potential for rain.
“As of right now… we haven’t seen anything. There’s pretty good spring weather down there,” he said. “I think any fruit that is not picked and packed and off the vine has the potential of being rained on at some point in the future.”
Alcaino said he also discussed the climactic conditions with leading experts recently who indicated uncertainty that the rains will actualize materialize.
“I think El Niño already produced most of its effects,” said Alcaino, citing a lack of high temperatures characteristic of the phenomena. “We probably had the coldest spring ever.”
Stetson said weather predictions are no more than speculation at this stage, but if they come the effects could be serious.
“If there is El Niño rain in January, we will need promotion in February regardless of the volume,” he said, referring to the effects of hastened picking and shortened shelf life that would result.
“If you have a lot of volume, that could make it pretty bad.”
Omar Abu-Ghazaleh, imports manager for Pacific Trellis Fruit LLC, Reedley, Calif., agreed that there are significant concerns about late deal rains.
“Initial rains and initial cold weather have not affected the crop much, but there is some concern for February and March,” he said.
Brian Schiro, grape category manager for Jac Vandenberg Inc., Yonkers, N.Y., agreed.
“I think we can deal with what has transpired, but the question is if there is more untimely rains that’s what will be detrimental.”
Leichter said a “significant portion of the crop” is at risk for rain damage.
“The net effect has a lot to do with the amount of rain and how the grower manages the crop post-rain,” he said, describing how humidity and moisture can cause decay in the bunches, and that spraying can help but would drive up costs.