As the grape season kicks off in the southern hemisphere, the global grape market is shaping up for an interesting season.
In the Netherlands, the grape supply is facing challenges due to heat-related issues in Southern European countries, leading to a notable decline in the availability of high-quality grapes. Demand remains high, however, maintaining a relatively stable market despite a 30-40% reduction in suitable grapes.
Germany reflects a contrasting scenario, where an expanded assortment of grape varieties is satisfying consumer demands. Italy, known for its rich grape production, is grappling with a significant drop in yield – up to 30% lower than previous years – due to adverse weather conditions and disease. Despite decreased production, market dynamics have stabilised prices, offering a positive outlook for growers.
In Spain, the grape harvest is so far unaffected by the heatwaves and is benefitting from less competition from Italy and Egypt than normal. Portugal stands out for its robust export potential, with a 40% surge in grape exports projected. Early harvests, warmer weather, and rising demand have contributed to a promising season.
South Africa anticipates a fruitful grape season following favourable winter conditions, although quality concerns arose in the Egyptian grape imports. North America's grape supply, notably from California, is peaking, with retailers capitalising on this period of peak quality.
In Peru, despite challenges such as weather anomalies and transportation disruptions, the country has emerged as a leading grape exporter. Expanding into new markets like Japan signifies the industry's resilience and adaptability.
Netherlands: Supply of good grapes lower
The heat in the southern European countries is making itself felt in the grape market, including for Italian grapes. "Due to the heat, we have a lot of burnt grapes and inferior qualities on the market. The supply of good-quality grapes is 30-40% lower than last year. So there are quite a lot of grapes coming on the market that are not suitable for supermarkets or the better customers," says a Dutch importer. "We will get the last Victoria grapes in next week, then we will switch to Italia grapes and that season may well continue until the end of November. Demand is also a lot higher than last year. 35% fewer grapes is also not yet causing panic in the market. Prices for Italia seedless grapes are around 12 euros for 4.5 kg. The Victoria and Palieri grapes are around 2 euros per kg."
Germany: Satisfying demand for grapes
A very wide range of varieties of grapes are available on the German market, as the supply increased once again. The Italian batches in particular gained in intensity: the presence of Italia and Michele Palieri obviously increased, while Black Magic and Victoria were losing ground. In general, demand has been very satisfying. Meanwhile, Spanish, French and Egyptian lots had a complementary status. The first Turkish Sultana arrived in German trade. The demand was quite positive, seedless grapes in particular were the most popular. Overall, due to the heat wave in Turkey, traders are counting with significant losses in terms of yield and volumes.
France: French grape campaign gets underway
The French grape season has just started, with Muscat AOC leading the way, this year offering excellent quality and volumes. Chasselas from Moissac in the south-west of France is arriving a little ahead of schedule. Generally for the 2023 campaign, "producers are very optimistic about quality: it's going to be a good campaign", according to one operator. The Italian variety Italia is also currently on the French market. As far as the trade is concerned, there are slight concerns about demand. Professionals hope that the market will be better than that for stone fruit.
Italy: Production of grapes down by up to 30%
The Sicilian table grape season is halfway through. The 2023 campaign was unusual, especially in terms of production: it started about two weeks later than usual. It usually starts in May with the early greenhouse crops and ends in December with the late varieties. This year, however, there is a strong risk that production will end before the end of autumn, with production down by at least 30%. This is certainly an underestimate compared to the same period last year. The trend will be identical for the other varieties that will follow.
If last year was a year of high production with less than excellent quality, this year has been a year of physiological rest for the plants, which have suffered from two years of drought and high temperatures and have produced less fruit. In addition, some parcels, especially those that were not covered, suffered from downy mildew caused by the rains in May and June, leading to further shortages. In the first phase, the market was damaged by the early harvest, which affected the value of the product. Subsequently, with the lack of product on the plantations, the market also rebalanced in terms of price. The current season is showing much better prices than last year, with average producer prices between €1.00 and €1.10/kg and in some cases higher. However, consumption has been low so far. Fortunately, this has been compensated for by the lack of product, which has kept prices in balance.
The 2023 campaign for Apulian table grapes will see a drop in production of around 30% due to the spread of downy mildew and a consequent increase in production costs of at least 20-30%. What makes the current season unusual, however, is the unsatisfactory selling prices for seedless varieties, which were expected to be higher, given the change in buying habits for seedless grapes across Europe.
One grower reported: "Whereas last year Victoria grapes were sold in the field for 0.60-0.70 €/kg, this year peaks of up to 1.20 €/kg have been achieved. Seedless varieties are being quoted at less than €1.00/kg. It is a bizarre commercial situation that is causing confusion and a pause for thought." In Apulia, no less than 50% of the seeded vines have been uprooted in the last two years, bringing about the long-awaited and much-needed varietal renewal. The current season has therefore seen a double reduction in production: that caused by the combination of adverse weather conditions and that caused by the uprooting carried out last year, which resulted in an unexpected shortage on the supply side and a consequent increase in prices.
Red Globe confirms its position in the viticultural sector. Although it is a seeded variety, it is an international grape that is well known and appreciated all over the world. It is also an easy variety to grow, which is a plus. The season looks promising with current selling prices three times higher than last year.
Spain: Good season expected
The Spanish table grape campaign is underway around 12 days ahead of schedule since it started at the end of June with the earliest varieties. For the time being, the crops are unaffected by the heat waves. The demand in the international markets is good and Italian competition is not yet very noticeable due to the delay in their harvest. For the time being, and unlike last season, higher volumes are expected, with a production estimated at around 240,000 tons, and with better quality fruit.
According to a Murcian producer and exporter: "The marketing is developing normally and with an adequate demand." In other years, the competition with Egyptian grapes made things a bit harder at the start of the season due to their low prices, but that hasn't been the case this season. "Egypt hasn't been as present in the market; its campaign was also ahead, and its scarcer volumes recorded higher prices than usual, almost at the same level as those of Spanish grapes."
In recent years, Spain has recorded a significant growth of table grape consumption, especially of seedless varieties, despite it being a market that traditionally consumed seeded grapes. Thanks to the imports to deliver table grapes to the shelves of Spanish supermarkets all year round, the consumption of this fruit has grown exponentially. The Spanish market is becoming more and more interesting for seedless table grapes.
As far as exports to distant destinations are concerned, there are better prospects for this year, since exporters are dealing with a more agile and affordable maritime transit compared to the previous year. Spanish exporters trust that they will manage to have a good campaign in Asian markets, Canada, the United States and South Africa."
Portugal: Export increase of 40% expected for Portuguese grapes
This year the harvest season started one week earlier than planned, with white grapes. Demand in the Portuguese market has been higher than last year. The export campaign with the Netherlands, Belgium and England started two weeks ago and Poland is now also incorporated. The varieties Midnight Beauty and Sweet Celebration are the stars in these markets so far. This year, an increase of 40 per cent is expected for the export numbers. Portugal has had a winter that was less cold than normal and a warm spring, which led to an earlier start this season. However, it hasn’t drastically affected the harvest or the quality of the grapes.
South Africa: Good outlook for coming grape season
Months before the start of South Africa’s grape season, the first vines are budding in Limpopo Province. Down in the Western Cape grape growers are pleased with the kind of winter they’ve had had: plenty of rain and snow.
South Africa imports its table grapes; Spanish white seedless grapes are trading at over R70 (3.5 euro) per kilogram.
“The last Crimson is coming from Egypt and our Spanish season has now started. It’s too early to really tell, we’ve only still received green seedless whose quality was a bit erratic. But we’re waiting for the Spanish season to really kick off with red and black.”
The grape importer remarks that the quality in Egyptian vineyards and pack sheds was excellent, but the arrivals were disappointing, especially during the early season. Quality improved with the mid and late cultivars.
North America: Peak grape supplies from California
California grapes are coming into their sweet spot of the season. “Retailers have been planning aggressive and large grape promotions because this is when California grapes really shine and are center stage in the produce department,” says one grower-shipper. “Some items like cherries are reaching the end of their season so retailers are ready for that.”
While California starts in late May and goes through January, peak weeks begin mid-July and continue through most of December.
What remains to be seen is the effect, if any, of the weekend’s Tropical Storm Hilary. “We had significant rain over virtually all the growing regions,” he says, noting that rain can damage ripe grapes and some growers use preventative measures to protect the fruit. “It’s likely to have some impact and it’s going to be days or a week until we can fully assess,” he says.
Meeting these supplies is good demand. “Retailers say grape sales are up,” he says. That’s leaving pricing slightly better than last year.
Peru: Large volumes of grapes expected to ship to Japan in the new season
Peru has just concluded the I International Congress of Table Grapes, in the hands of Provid, celebrating that in the 2022-2023 campaign, with 71.4 million boxes of 8.2 kg of table grapes exported -10% more than the season previous - the country became the main exporter worldwide in volume of grapes. And this, despite the fact that there were various factors that affected the normal development of the campaign.
As Provid details in its latest bulletin, the weather phenomenon “La Niña” affected the start of the table grape season with lower-than-normal temperatures and delayed the harvest in the north first, and then in the south.
In November 2022, the strike of carriers mainly affected the Piura region due to the inoperability of the Port of Paita during those days of stoppage. A month later, in December 2022 (and even again in January 2023), the cut off of roads after the coup d'état by Pedro Castillo, mainly affected the Ica region, impacting the programming of the campaign.
Already in the final stretch of the season, the arrival of Cyclone Yaku affected the last weeks of exports of the campaign, as did the weather phenomenon "El Niño Costero", which affected late varieties.
However, the results obtained in this context demonstrate the strength of the Peruvian table grape sector, which this year has added a new and important destination: Japan; a market with 125 million potential consumers and a potential exporter of fresh grapes of more than US$ 17 million, according to an industry body, who said that large volumes are expected to be exported since Japan has approved that Peru can enter with 26 varieties of grapes, well above the number that other origins can export.
For this new season, growth forecasts will be subject to the possible impact of the “El Nino Global”.
Next week: Global Market Overview Lemons!