National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

The immediate f.o.b. market for Chilean seedless grapes doesn’t seem to be too animated about the port strike in Chile, but the lack of alarm does not extend to our Chilean friends.

The USDA-reported f.o.b. market for extra large thompson seedless grapes in 8-kilo containers on April 3 was $16-18 per carton, the same price as on March 25. For crimson seedless, the f.o.b. market was $20-22 per carton on April 3 for extra large grapes, down from $22-24 per carton on March 25.

Sermaco Inc. statistics show that Chilean fruit arrivals to the East Coast for the week of April 1 to April 7 are expected to be 2.98 million cartons of grapes, up from 2.42 million cartons received the week of March 25 to March 31. . For the West Coast, Sermaco reports Chilean grape arrivals for will be 1.04 million cartons the week of April 1 to April 7, down from 1.276 million cartons the week of March 25.

One would think that arrivals would begin to contract considerably for the week April 8, which represents the end of the effective marketing season for Chilean seedless grapes because import inspection requirements for the California marketing order kick in April 10.

Chile’s Fedefruta grower website tells us the continuing port strike will be very damaging to growers and exporters.

From the report filed last night on Fedefruta, Chilean fruit leaders say that between 100,000 and 300,000 people in the industry will lose wages because of the strike.

Starting April 5, the Fedefruta report said harvest in regions V (Valparaiso) and IX (Araucania) will be suspended in all or in part because of the strike-induced shutdown in port activities at  San Antonio, where 1,600 containers of fruit have been stranded.

The Fedefruta report said that harvest will be arrested on about 40,000 hectares of crops and 1,800 packing/processing facilities. If the port strike continues at San Antonio for all of April – surely an unlikely prospect, one would think - the Fedefruta report said that losses could top $400 million, with up to 20 million boxes lost.

Beyond losing export opportunities, Chilean leaders fear for their business reputations and standing in the international community. Ronald Bown of the Chilean Exporters Association and others were pushing for Chile to invoke national security provisions and end the strike, but the Fedefruta report said that option has been ruled out for now.

The still-uncertain effect of the disruption in harvest and export movement will be worth watching, both for the soon-ending grape season but also the Southern Hemisphere apple season.