Good supplies of Chilean and Peruvian fruit expected in U.S. over the winter
Delaware-based fruit supplier Forever Fresh says it is expecting good volumes of Chilean cherries and stone fruit as well as Peruvian grapes this season, amid robust production expectations and ongoing strong consumer demand.
Evan Myers, general manager of the vertically integrated sales and marketing company, told FreshFruitPortal.com: "Our first two items coming out of Chile this season, cherries and stone fruit, are looking pretty good."
The Chilean cherry season is now underway, with predictions that the country's total exports will increase. The stone fruit season meanwhile is due to begin later in November, Myers said.
"Everything's looking food as far as overall volumes, timing and crop size," he said.
Chile-based Garcés fruit - an owner of Forever Fresh and one of the world's largest cherry exporters - has been shipping steady volumes into the U.S. over the last decade or so, he said. The company may see a gradual increase in shipments to the U.S. as Garcés' new plantings come into production, but there may not be a rise in total volumes from Chile despite an expected production increase of up to 15 percent.
"I do see industry-wide that the volumes out of Chile to the U.S. have been decreasing every year, with the volumes increasing in Chile. So I think it's a balancing act here in the U.S. as far as volumes in pricing and the stabilization of the market," he said.
"I think the additional volume will likely to go to Asia rather than coming to the U.S., just because the U.S. market is such a fragile market when it does come to kind cherries on the import side."
Concern over lack of air freight capacity
Myers described the lack of air freight capacity and high prices as a "concern". He explained that it would likely put pressure on the market and that the growers would likely have to absorb some of the additional costs.
"I think these markets are fairly price-sensitive right now, considering the economic climate and everything that's going on. When you're talking about air-flown cherries, they're very expensive, so we need to be cognizant of that," he said.
"So there will be some challenges but I think that the growers understand that, and these are unfortunately the times we're living in right now."
Meanwhile, stone fruit supplies look set to be more stable than the previous seasons, he said, noting there had been heavy shortages in some categories in the last two years.
"I think there were stronger markets just because of the lack of volume, but this year we do see everything looking good. I think the volumes will be here for promotions," he said.
He expected the stone fruit harvest to begin in mid-November, with the first arrivals in the U.S. around early December.
In addition, there will be larger volumes of newer varieties - especially of plums and nectarines - from trees planted in Chile over the past five or six years, he said.
"You're starting to get more and more of those entering into the marketplace to hopefully change the minds of some of the consumers here in the U.S. during the winter," he said.
With the start of the Chilean grape season still a few weeks ago, Myers said it was too early to give a prediction for crop size. But he said that it appears the weather has been good with no adverse climatic events, and water supplies have been sufficient.
Some U.S. customers switching over to Peruvian grapes earlier
The Peruvian grape season is now underway, with expectations of a significant year-over-year increase in volume. Victor Arriagada, managing director at Forever Fresh, said expectations for the season are "optimistic".
"On the production side, it's good, it's healthy, there's good weather and there will be an increase in total production as a country. It varies between the different areas, but in general expectations are for around 20 percent more production this year for all markets," he said.
He said the industry will be keeping an eye on the California grape deal, which is currently slightly behind on its shipments compared to last year. He said this could be due to an adjustment in the demand or later production, or a combination of both.
"So we need to be on top of that to see how the situation will be for the first arrivals," he said.
Forever Fresh's first containers of Peruvian grapes are currently in transit and will arrive around mid-November, with the peak season set to begin in December.
Arriagada added that some customers are switching to Peruvian grapes earlier this year, amid a customer trend to not extend the seasons by too much and to switch to production areas that are just beginning their campaigns.
He also noted that some trends the company was seeing this year included higher demand for fruits that can't be easily touched by consumers, as well as special packaging types like top-seal or clamshell for newer grape varieties to provide differentiation.
Strong growth forecast with new products in the pipeline
In February this year, Forever Fresh announced that Chilean-based Provex - a citrus and grape-focused exporter - had come on board as a new partner. Arriagada said the additional products had been a great complement to the company's South American fruit offer and had helped to bridge supply gaps.
Arriagada added that Forever Fresh had this year begun bringing in organic apples and cherries into the U.S. for the first time. He also announced that the company would next year start to bring in blueberries, with supplies to come from Peru.
The company is forecasting "significant" growth in its traditional items next year, Myers said, with the supplies of fruit from its owners' farms set to continue to rise.