Accelerated transition to imported table grapes expected in North America
The transition from U.S. table grapes to South American supplies is set to take place earlier than normal amid a smaller California crop.
Imported white seedless varieties especially are expected to become increasingly predominant in the market over the coming weeks.
"The transition from California to imported sources appears to be accelerated this year with retailers planning on an earlier transition," Mark Greenberg, CEO of Capespan North America, told FreshFruitPortal.com.
"This is the result of both a shorter than anticipated crop along with some real concerns about product condition, especially on white seedless varieties."
Capespan North America has already received its first northern Peruvian table grapes and is planning to start deliveries to retailers this week.
He added that there would likely be a general move toward white seedless imports from this week going forward.
"The transition to red seedless varieties will follow in the next two weeks, although there are expected to be domestic red seedless grapes available through Christmas," he said.
John Pandol, special projects director of Pandol Bros., said his company was finishing the harvests in California.
He also expects an earlier transition than last year, saying there seems to be more "realism" in the industry this season.
"Last year there was a lot of fruit that was picked and then either not sold in the normal time and beyond or was outright dumped," he said. "So I think there's a realism among the California shippers to not put up more than you can sell."
The November harvest seems to be lighter than previous years, he said, and much of the transition will take place a few days earlier than normal.
White table grapes would likely transition over the next two to four weeks, he said, and red from mid- to late-December onward.
Pandol expected there would be more seedless grapes throughout the season from Peru - which is forecasting a 15% increase in total exports.
It is as yet unclear what kind of volume Chile will be sending this season, with predictions having ranged both higher and lower than last year's total crop of 83m boxes, he said.
Chile is also focusing increasingly on the mid- to late-section of the import window, with Peru dominating the earlier stages.
Shawn Caldwell, sales manager at Vanguard Direct, also said the company was expecting an earlier than normal end to the California seasons.
"We're anticipating green grapes to wind down quickly in mid-late November and red in mid-late December," he said.
Vanguard Direct will begin its Peruvian import season with arrivals the last week of December or early January, he added. "We will start our season with Sweet Globe and Sweet Celebration grapes and continue throughout the import season with all of our premium IP varieties," he said.
The transition between California and South America will likely be "smoother" than last season, Caldwell said.
He explained that in addition to California volumes being down, there was an early start from northern Peru that will see their harvest finish in week 52, with volumes dropping in week 48. Southern Peru should start harvesting in weeks 48-49, with peak volumes in week 6 or 7.
"It’s a positive transition as we will not see the overlap from all origins that was experienced last season," he said.