Chile's Thompson grape season to close a fortnight early
Chile's Thompson seedless grape harvest is expected to finish two weeks ahead of schedule due to an unusually dry hot summer with U.S. shipments to show a 17% year-on-year decrease by the end of the season.
However, lower supply pushed up Thompson prices especially in the U.S. where many Chilean exporters reported fetching up to US$22 per 8.2kg box.
U.S. importer Pandol Bros said Chile shipped a total of 3.773 million boxes from week 49 to 7 (Dec. 20-Feb19); 1.05 million less to date compared with the previous season.
The company's global operations director David Sudduth predicted by the end of the season the shortfall would climb to 2.174 million.
He said this was due to 650,000 less boxes shipped from the northern province of Copiapó, 715,000 boxes diverted to Europe and Asia along with 809,000 boxes of grapes harvested earlier than normal.
Sudduth said he was expecting the season to close by the middle of this month.
Chile's Subsole commercial manager Juan Colombo, agreed this season's Thompson harvest was early and volumes were down significantly.
Sudduth described the Thompson harvest from Chile as in very good condition and distributed worldwide extremely quickly.
"Holland reported some issues of decay from Copiapó but from Rancagua and further south it has been very strong and very good and uniform. Growers have been harvesting very fast," he said.
Colombo said he expected packing to finish by week 11 (Mar.16) well ahead of Apr. 10 when the U.S.'s Department of Agriculture requires more exacting quality standards.
"There will not be many Thompson grapes around by that date. The production of Crimson grapes will not be held back by the late production of Thompson," said Sudduth.
Both Sudduth and Colombo agree Crimson's quality reliability mean it won't find the higher requirements post Apr. 10 an obstacle.
Despite the high prices Thompson has commanded this season many Chilean growers will have operated at a loss particularly in the north were volumes were down due to drought conditions.
"Some growers will have financial problems. Thompson is costly to produce and if you don't produce sufficient amounts you can find yourself operating at a loss. It costs US$18-20 per hectare just for production which is a lot of money. It's a challenging cultivar," said Colombo.
Chile Oppenheimer's senior category manager Cristian Álvarez agreed that some growers particularly in regions III and IV will have struggled to make ends meet.
He said: "In the North we had problems with lack of water and split berries with 20% less volumes in Copiapó. I visited ten growers in the North last week and everyone said it was a terrible season for them because they had higher costs than other years."
Overall, Pandol Bros estimates when the Thompson season closes volumes from Chile to the U.S. will be 9.154 million boxes compared with last season's 11.04 million boxes.
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