Spanish grapes: Slow market diversification this year balanced with strong EU demand

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Spanish grapes: Slow market diversification this year balanced with strong EU demand

The Spanish table grape industry's efforts to diversify its export markets took a hit this year due to challenges amid the pandemic, but it has enjoyed increased demand and consumption in the European market.

Joaquin Gomez of Spanish fruit export association Apoexpa told that the country - whose main grape markets are the U.K. and Germany - has been trying to make inroads into destinations around the world. But this year those markets have been "much slower".

"The ports have had delays, the transit times of the containers have tended to be longer than normal, and so our export markets like South Africa, Vietnam, the Middle East and Singapore are much slower," he said.

The Chinese market also opened to Spanish grapes last year, with the first exports carried out in September. However, Gomez said that "given the circumstances, they will be small. But we hope they will be successful".

The Spanish grape season kicked off around June and should wind down in November, with strong volume expected through October. By mid-September, around three-quarters of the crop had been harvested.

Gomez explained that the industry is expecting normal volumes this year due to the absence of any adverse weather events.

"Frankly, the market is functioning very well, because the demand is very strong. The lockdowns have helped, because everyone is spending a lot of time in their homes and consuming there," he said, adding that lower numbers of Germans and Brits going on vacations this summer also boosted sales.

He also explained that table grapes relied less on foodservice channels like hotels and restaurants than other fresh produce items. 

Despite the demand increase, Gomez said that prices are within the normal range. "But we can't complain," he said.

And aside from the slowdown in market diversification, Gomez said that the pandemic didn't have much negative effect on the Spanish grape industry, with labor not an issue this year.

In addition, he emphasized that it will be crucial that "countries which are now coming into season like Chile, Peru, and Brazil, amongst others, continue making an effort to make sure that they keep providing product to the consumers so that they always know grapes will be there. And that we make sure that our consumers always have everything they need."

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