Australia table grape production to rise by 17% despite challenges

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Australia table grape production to rise by 17% despite challenges

Labor shortages during the Covid-19 pandemic and supply chain issues hindered Australian table grapes crops. Unfavorable weather conditions negatively impacted harvests as well. However, recent USDA reports project that total production is forecast to rise to an estimated 210,000 metric tons (MT) for the 2022-23 season.

During the 2021-22 season, a lack of labor availability and higher costs for shipments also contributed to a smaller presence in international markets. Consequently, supply for the domestic market increased while exports fell. 

Encouraging forecast

Following these negative figures, the USDA has estimated a total production increase of 17% year-on-year. Exports are also forecast to rise by 8% at 130,000 MT. This comes with expectations of improved availability for harvest labor and better seasonal conditions.

Although still in the very early stages, production has gotten off to a promising start. Industry sources report favorable conditions resulting in a great bud burst in early September. This is particularly relevant in the key production regions like Victoria and southern New South Wales.

Australia mainly exports table grapes to Asian countries. Over the last ten years, exports have grown by 410%. A key advantage for exporters of this nation is that the shipping time to reach China is 18-20 days, whereas it is around 35 days from South American countries.

During the 2021-22 marketing year and due to supply chain issues, exports to China and Hong Kong fell by 58%. This mainly accounted for the overall decline experienced during the season.

Multiple challenges

Despite expanded vine plantings in recent years now coming into fruiting, general production has faced several hurdles. 

Over the last two years, the cost of sea and air freight tripled its price. In addition, availability and reliability for marine transport diminished, creating inconsistency of supply and quality issues for perishable products. 

Regarding weather conditions, overcast skies and humidity severely impacted crops during the previous term. This resulted in sinking both production volume and quality for exports.

Reduced labor availability also played an important role in hindering harvests. The shortage also made it difficult for establishing new plantings. 

Nevertheless, the report published by USDA remained optimistic. 

“Australia’s table grape production is expected to increase to 210,000 MT in the marketing year (MY) 2022/23, from an estimated 180,000 metric tons in MY 2021/22. Exports are forecast to rise to 130,000 MT in MY 2022/23, mainly due to higher production, from 109,000 MT in MY 2021/22,” the publication noted.

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