Giumarra's Arra 15 variety is one of the proprietary varieties helping to boost grape volumes from Chile as vines come to maturity. ( The Giumarra Cos. )

North American buyers should see an orderly Chilean grape season with more volume than recent years.

This season started a week or two later than last year, but last year was earlier than normal.

And North America continues to see a larger share of the crop.

According to the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association, 39,000 tons has been shipped this season from Chile through early January, down from 79,000 at the same time last year.

John Pandol, director of special projects for Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Bros. Inc., estimates overall grape volume in the low 90-million carton range, slightly larger than average.

In early January, 18-pound containers of bagged flame seedless were $28-30, up from $20-22 a year ago.

Karen Brux, managing director of North America for the San Carlos, Calif.-based Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, said even with the later start compared to last year, growers expect a normal season.

“This season is actually progressing quite normally, with retailers just starting to promote,” she said in early January.

“A normal, steady flow of product can be expected throughout the season, with promotions continuing through April.”

Kellee Harris, western region business director for The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles, said the company expects more grapes this year than in previous years.

“This is a pattern that will continue as newer varieties, including our Arra proprietary selections, are planted by additional growers and the vines in the ground become mature,” she said.

An ASOEX early January crop report said in Copiapo, region three in the north, the bulk of the harvested volume consisted of flame seedless, sugraone/superior and thompson seedless varieties, while red globes were gradually increasing.

Pandol said generally red varieties are delayed because of slow color development, while white varieties are mostly on time.

“Using flame as a benchmark, the north started in late December, the fifth region second week of January and the south looks like the fourth week of January,” he said in early January.


Other markets

Pandol said Chilean growers are sending an increasing amount to North America.

“After several years of 45% coming to North America, the Chileans have been climbing back towards 50%,” he said.

He said there has been some weakness in other markets, such as post-Brexit United Kingdom, and economic problems in Latin America, especially Venezuela and Brazil.

“Russia buys a tenth of what they bought five years ago,” he said.     

Harris said there are still plenty of strong export markets for Chilean growers.

“Competition for product from Asian and European markets continues to be an issue as the strong demand for fresh produce worldwide increases,” she said.