Chile has had an uneven season, but USDA statistics now reveal season to date imports are about on par with a year ago. Grapes represented 14% of all retail fruit ads on March 22, according to the USDA retail report.White seedless grapes from Chile were being promoted in 11,772 retail stores on March 22, up from 6,988 a year ago. Advertised prices were reported at $2.02 per pound, up from $1.86 per pound a year ago.
While grape imports from Mexico and Peru have climbed in recent years, U.S. imports of Chilean grapes have slid from $740 million in 2010 to $630 million in 2011 to $580 million in 2012. Unfavorable exchange rates for Chilean exporters have been a big story line in the recent struggle, but worries about water and labor have also been part of the chatter.
Certainly a port strike adds more cause for worry late this season.
It is perhaps likely the port strike will be settled quickly. If not, the USDA should consider pushing back the marketing order requirements by several days so that Chilean grape shipments can arrive to the U.S. with minimal economic impact to importers and consumers in the U.S.