U.S.: Price pressure building on smaller size table grapes, says AMC North America
After a slow start to California's Central Valley table grape season due to excessive heat, a representative of AMC North America says price pressure is now starting to build up on smaller-sized fruit in the U.S. market.
Sales manager Rick Hudson said temperatures over recent weeks had been extremely high, limiting the amount of time harvesting crews could be out in the fields.
"We went through a period when we were 110 degrees-plus (43ºC) for several days in a row. We got off to a very late start in the valley, much later than normal," he told Fresh Fruit Portal.
"Growers were running anywhere from seven to 10 days later than last year in terms of their first harvest date, which has created a little bit of a void in the market place."
He said the supply gap was mainly for the red seedless varieties as there had been few Mexican red grapes left in the market, but a similar situation was now being seen with green seedless as more varieties came on.
In addition, Hudson highlighted the market for large-sized fruit seemed to be holding its value, whereas a high proportion of smaller-sized grapes was creating pressure.
"The harvest that we have seen thus far, even though it’s been limited in comparison to other years, has definitely been on the smaller side," he said.
"We are getting much more volume of what we would describe as a medium-large or medium berry versus a large berry. This has been reflected in the market in that there is a pretty good spread in terms of FOB prices between the sizes.
"Typically you have spreads of maybe US$2, but now you’ll see spreads now of US$4 and maybe even US$6 for extra-large premium fruit versus the medium."
With much heavier volumes anticipated over the next week or two, Hudson said many marketers were trying to stay ahead of the curve.
"People are trying to stay ahead of it by pricing more aggressively to keep moving the fruit out," he said.
"So you’re starting to see some of the pricing break on medium and medium-large fruit, while the large fruit is maintaining its price pretty well."
Timing-wise he said the season seemed to be similar to Mexico's, which also saw a slow start followed by a quick arrival of heavy volumes.
The later start to California's campaign also meant there was little overlap between the two origins, he added, and so when the U.S. industry kicked off the season it entered into strong market
"The Mexican season was heavy, but as we started so late it gave the tail end of Mexican season time to clean up. So once we got started there really were not many grapes in the pipeline and we had really good demand from the very beginning," he said.
In terms of the total crop, Hudson said it seemed some growers had experienced fruit loss related to the excessive heat, but he noted newer and higher yielding varieties coming into production may compensate or even result in a year-on-year increase.
Positive results for Alison grapes
AMC North America, part of the AMC group, has various affiliated entities including Spain-based SNFL (Special New Fruit Licensing) Group and Grape Genesis, which work with the Sheehan varieties.
Hudson said this week saw the first harvests of the green seedless Ivory variety in the Central Valley.
He also highlighted the late-season red seedless Alison variety as one that had received "wide acceptance" in pat due to the grape's self-coloring nature, which he said was not the case with its competitor Crimson Seedless that needed chemical application to color.