Chilean clementines approaching "rapid" finish, U.S. importers claim
Chile's clementine harvest is expected to finish 10 days earlier than normal, which could potentially leave a gap in U.S. supply for the first two weeks of August between the early and late varieties.
U.S. importers have seen a surge of Chilean shipments in the last three weeks as growers have tried to harvest quickly to beat the recent wet weather.
Oppenheimer category director for clementines James Milne, said there had been a convergence of supply with the first pallets of South African clementines arriving last week.
"Chile started with small amounts in May but in the last three weeks things have really picked up to levels higher than last year."
He said normally Chile would continue harvesting throughout July but the harvest was coming to a "rapid" finish. This was because growers were attempting to beat dropping acidity levels produced by trees absorbing more moisture following the wet weather.
DNE World Fruit Sales clementine category manager Matt Gordon, said Chilean supply in the last few weeks was 40% greater than the same time the previous year.
"This is a pressured month. Chile has larger sizes and a higher packout and they are 10 days earlier this year which means we have had more volumes early. Everything has moved up a week earlier than last year."
Florida-based Seald Sweet International marketing manager Kim Flores, said her company was seeing the same trend.
"There was a big influx initially of supply which was up compared with last year. We are predicting the Chilean season to finish a little earlier compared with the previous year."
Jac. Vadenberg clementine manager for the Chilean program Brian Schiro, described the market as "quite difficult" at the moment.
"We are bringing in lots of clementines at the moment. Chile has a larger crop and due to this they are coming in a bit faster."
Gordon said Chile fetched good prices at the beginning of the season in May, because Californian supply finished in April instead of the beginning of June due to cold weather.
At the start of the season freight on board (FOB) prices for a 15 kilogram re-packed box reached US$40, compared with between US$24-28 per box at the moment.
"You are getting a vicious price adjustment downwards to get the fruit moving again," said Milne.
Chile and South African early varieties include Oranules and Clemenules with later varieties such as W. Murcotts arriving from mid-August from Chile and Peru, along with late season mandarins from South Africa.