Australian table grape season’s silver lining
Despite an ominous early season, the Australian table grape season concluded on a positive note.
Australian domestic and export sales for 2023 made a marked recovery in the previous two years, despite climatic events affecting producers in several growing regions and impacting optimal seasonal timing.
Table grape export volumes increased by 20,000 tons to more than 130,000 tons – worth more than $570 million – lower than the industry’s pre-Covid peak, but an improvement on the past two seasons.
Wet and mild weather early in the production year instigated several issues, including a 3–4-week delay in many growing areas and higher-than-usual pest and disease concerns.
Australian Table Grape Association CEO Jeff Scott says producers endured several tests this season but overall finished positively.
“In November and December, weather events brought rain, hail, and flooding to Sunraysia and Queensland,” Scott says.
“Growers were tested and had to be very strategic with their pest and disease management – accessing their vines when they could to apply appropriate treatments. Despite there being a higher than usual risk of downy mildew and powdery mildew from the rain events, table grape producers remained relatively unscathed.”
Scott adds that while quality wasn’t affected by the weather events, grapes took longer to color and ripen.
“While the early season fruit was absorbed by the domestic market, many of the mid-and late-season varieties reached maturity at the same time and were harvested at once,” Scott says.
Overabundant fruit led to a glut in some markets, however, others recovered well from two low years.
China exports lifted to around 40% – from 28% last year – Indonesia received more than 18% of export products, and Vietnam held firm at 10%.
Scott says producers and exporters were hopeful for a more stable production year, with climatic conditions expected to return to normal and improved market access on the agenda in several countries.
“We’re working with the federal government and overseas governments to improve market access in Thailand and the Philippines,” Scott adds.
“We’re also hopeful for full varietal access in Japan, which currently only accepts two varieties, and changes to the protocol in the United States, which would open up many avenues for exports.”