Grape imports to Europe insufficient as Greek season closes

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Grape imports to Europe insufficient as Greek season closes

Importers in Europe must decide between quality and price to meet the constant demand for grapes.

Grape sales in Europe find themselves in a temporary bind, facing a supply shortage as growing seasons in Greece, Italy and Spain come to a close.

"There is constant demand and insufficient supply at the moment. Brazil has just started and Greece is fading out quickly," said Jan Marc Schulz, procurement chief at SFI Rotterdam BV, an independent Dutch fresh fruit importer.

Despite the current lack of buying options elsewhere, the price of Brazilian grapes has made them a hard sell for some European importers this season.

"They ask for a very high price for Brazilian grapes and clients do not want to pay a high price at the moment," said Wilko van der Zwaard, director of Dutch importer and exporter WilkoFruit.

"With these prices, it's too high to make profits."

Brazil, however, has the quality and variety currently difficult to find from other countries. The Thompson Seedless and Sugraone varieties from Brazil are selling best, Schulz said, and cannot easily be challenged by competing varieties.

As growing seasons start in the Southern Hemisphere, Red Globes from Peru are beginning to arrive to Europe. Mostly a seeded grape, Red Globes do not compare to the seedless varieties that are in demand, Schulz said.

"Peru has concentrated on Red Globes and that is not the variety that could compete with the Sugraones or Festivals from Brazil. Now, for seedless varieties from Peru, yes, they would be most welcome," Schulz said.

Van der Zwaard said his first two containers of Peruvian Red Globes will arrive next week. Peru offered the pricing he could not find in Brazil and the quality that he could not find from Italy. He said that Italian grapes have experienced quality inconsistency, affected by recent rainfall.

Van der Zwaard added he has also made contact with exporters in Chile, another producer that will come onto the market in early November.

Until growing seasons in the Southern Hemisphere come into full swing, Schulz said the pull between supply and demand will remain high.

"Traditionally it will stay at a high level until about Christmas. Then you get South African and Argentinean crops hitting the market.

"From that moment on, the supply is sufficient, if not even more than sufficient and that will put pressure on the process," Schulz said.

In terms of consumer demand, grapes are considered a staple food, explaining supply pressure even as supermarket prices may rise.

"The very expensive luxury products like pineapples and mangoes, there’s not such a good market for them anymore. [Consumers] are focused more on the traditional products like mandarins, apples, pears, bananas and grapes, of course," van der Zwaard said.

The current challenge for grapes is not whether consumers will buy them but how to make them a consistently profitable import.

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