SH grape campaign looking more 'normal' this year, says Pandol exec
As U.S. grape sellers gear up for the transition to Southern Hemisphere supply in November, they can take comfort in the fact there have not yet been any disrupting frosts like what was seen last year in Chile's Copiapó region. Pandol Bros VP of Sales and Marketing Scott Reade says his company's suppliers are expecting a "relatively normal crop" but it is still too soon to be certain this will be the case. He tells www.freshfruitportal.com how an earlier Californian season bodes well for South American suppliers, including Peru which is set for higher shipments and Brazil for which the opposite is the case.
The frosts and snow that hit northern Chile last year shifted expectations out of kilter but this does not seem to be an issue in 2012.
"That's the big difference I see between this season and last season," he says.
"There was a lot of interest on the Californian growers’ side to store fruit in anticipation of a good market in December, in actuality we ended up with a lot of Californian storage fruit, on top of an earlier than expected Chilean season.
"Typically the peak of the market is in December and then the market drops in price, but last year was unique in the sense that the market was lower in December than where it adjusted to in January and February."
He highlights good overall conditions in grape demand in the U.S. with good quality Californian fruit.
"In the U.S. market right now the growers are about 10 days ahead of last year’s harvest - it varies depending on variety - and that’s positive because if you’re 10 days earlier then the season should end 10 days earlier.
"Every year is different and it’s difficult to predict until you know with confidence the start date with Chile but it’s always positive when California is 10 days earlier than the previous season.
"We had a good Chilean season last year as far as prices and movement in sales, so I hope this season we can continue to build on that with good conditioned fruit - we’ve got good momentum moving forward for the Chilean program for sure."
As far as the earliest Southern Hemisphere supplier Brazil is concerned, there should be a change in volumes shipped to the U.S. this year.
"Last year we received roughly 20% more fruit from Brazil from the previous year but in talking to some of the Brazilian exporters, it seems like this year there will be less fruit from Brazil shipped to the U.S.
"I don’t think the results were very good last season for Brazilian fruit and they have good demand domestically, so our expectation is that we’ll see less fruit from Brazil this season.
"With the late green varieties that are coming in from California now, I think there’s going to be Californian fruit available in the November timeframe, which is a typical market window for Brazil."
The view for Peru
Reade says there is going to be more seedless fruit available to ship to the U.S. out of Peru this season, which is a trend that is likely to grow in the coming years.
"They're going to come in the late November-early December timeframe with the bulk of the volume," he says.
"I think there will be less pressure from Californian fruit during that timeframe, and I think they’ll be competing more with Copiapó then than they necessarily will with the Californian fruit."
Reade adds he is impressed with the responsiveness of the South American grape industry to plant, test and export new varieties.
"One variety that we’ve had success with is the Sweet Celebration variety from IFG. We are one of the marketers of that particular variety here in the U.S. - right now there is a limited amount of hectares that have been planted in Peru, Chile and Brazil.
"It's very exciting to think that we might be able to have a premium variety like that that could be available most weeks of the year in the U.S.
"It has a large berry size that in a matured vineyard could grow to one inch diameter and it has a very sweet taste. Sweet Celebration has a minimum sugar content of 20 brix and its color and shape is similar to a red globe."
He says the company will be importing its first Peruvian Sweet Celebration grapes this season, with the possibility of some out of Brazil too.
Related story: Brazil to cut grape exports this season, claims Grupo JD
Photo: Pandol Bros