Indian table grape exporters upbeat as campaign gets underway
Cold weather has caused some delays to the start of the Indian grape season, but as the campaign fully gets underway exporters are feeling positive about volumes, fruit quality and prospects in the European market.
Amit Kalya of Nashik-based Kalya Exports told Fresh Fruit Portal harvests started a couple of weeks later than last year due to low temperatures in key growing areas, which also led to a slow development of Brix levels.
But now as the weather improves, expectations are for a strong season.
"The skin is very clear, there are no spots and the fruit quality in general is good - better than last year because of the weather. The good weather also means we had to spray the fruit less.
"Compared to last year the volumes at the beginning could have been a bit more, but the season started a little later than expected."
He said the season got going around mid-January this year, as opposed to the typical start period of late-December and early January. As a result, he added, only around 500 containers had been shipped from the country, as opposed to roughly 800 at this time last season.
"At this point in time last year India had exported much more...but from next week we will go to full capacity again," he said.
The harvest is now also expected to run until the end of April as opposed to the normal finish in the middle of the month.
Increased competition with Chile
In terms of total exports from India, Kalya said volumes would likely be in line with the 2016 season, and could end up around 10% higher.
He expected a good campaign in Europe this year, anticipating a relatively stable market over the coming months compared to previous years.
A fairly weak North American market means Chilean exporters may ship higher volumes to Europe, he said, but he added production issues in the South American country are likely to cap volumes.
In addition, he explained many European retailers were starting to complement Chilean table grapes with Indian supplies.
"Last year some supermarkets started shifting to Indian fruit because they don't want to rely on Chilean fruit, because they are shipping more to the American market," he said.
"In the past this has created volatility and affects supply, and the supermarkets don't want to be left without fruit."
Exports to China - another one of India's key grape markets - are also increasing year to year, as consumers become more accustomed to Indian fruit.
"My company started exporting to China four years back. I think for every exporter the volumes are increasing," he said.
"The market is developing for us and they now know what the Indian varieties are. Before it was only Chilean, Peruvian and Australian grapes, and now they understand what Indian varieties are. So I think the acceptability in the Chinese market is getting better."
A representative from another major exporter based in the same region, Mahagrape, echoed Kalya seasonal expectations, saying a "clean" climate had led to a "really good crop".
"We are expecting a very good market both domestically and for export. It should be a good season this year," technical manager Sachin Korde said.
"We have just started, but we have good volumes this year. We are using very little pesticides due to the good climate, and we hope to have a good volume for export."
He also expected sales in the European market to increase this year.