U.S. table grape imports may see "even shorter market" after Chilean rains
With the Peruvian table grape harvest season coming to a close, a California-based supplier believes that there could be limited demand for the Chilean crop which was recently cut by heavy rains.
John Pandol, Special Projects Director of Pandol Bros, told FreshFruitPortal.com: “Whatever grapes are thought to be arriving from Chile, there is going to be a lot less, so people are planning to do other things, possibly citrus, berries or another commodity.”
“As a marketer, I can’t assume anything this season, so all of my normal assumptions are off the table,” he said.
He said marketers are going to be very cautious, potentially slowing down processes too much and then not being able to turn it back on.
“I fear we might make a short market into an even shorter market,” he said.
Promotions for table grapes are normally planned three to five weeks in advance, and as Chile was hit with heavy, unseasonal rains in early February - which are expected to have affected mainly mid-season grapes and significantly reduced the total crop forecast - the exact volume and conditions of the fruit are unknown.
“There will be less volume than forecasted because most of the grapes are still waiting to be picked and shipped,” Pandol said.
“It’s going to be hard to plan and generally when we don’t plan, we have less movement. We know there will be less volume and there will probably be less shelf life in the grapes that do get sent.”
As Peru’s season comes to an end, Pandol said, “there is some catch-up due to the delays at harvest, so I think there are more Peruvian grapes in the system than people see”.
Prices were raised following Chilean rains
Along with that, he doesn’t believe there will be a gap between the Peruvian and Chilean seasons.
“As soon as there was a discussion of the events that took place (namely Chilean rains), people started raising prices and holding back volume,” he said.
However, Pandol said: “I think we will see a split market. The very sound grapes will have good pricing as they do now and will be aggressive”.
“The problem is that we will have fruit that won’t be so good and that may be a drag on the market”, as it takes more time for the product to sell.
In a previous interview with Origin Fruit Direct, Corne van de Klundert told FreshFruitPortal.com that “the open market is a bit sluggish in the U.S. and in Europe”.
Pandol agreed, saying it was true in California’s season as well as during the import season.
“Both at a wholesale and consumer level, [the demand] doesn’t seem to be there and we aren’t sure why,” he said.
Potential causes are the changes from in-store purchases to online shopping, taking away almost all impulse buying and replacing it with repeat buying.
“There seems to be a myth in that fruit demand is always the same and if supply goes up or down, then prices should move and that doesn’t happen,” he said.
Caution urged for Chilean grape imports
He added: “There is a lot of stock and so we started slowing down movement and raising prices so that will cover some of the gap, but right now there is kind of a wait and see on whether supply from Chile will affect pricing.”
For the Chilean grapes that will soon be coming in, the white varieties are expected to be more affected by the rains than red varieties, as the latter come off of the vine later in the season, Pandol said.
As there is a limited amount of reconditioning capacity at the moment in the U.S., Pandol said that: “If we are not careful, we could get into a situation where there isn’t the ability to repack all of the fruit that needs to be reconditioned”.
“The default position should be: if in doubt don’t pack it, don’t ship it and whatever arrives, dispatch it immediately and hold onto nothing.”
However, “we are encouraged by our partners in Chile as they are being very thoughtful and responsible during this time”, Pandol said.