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El Niño impacts timing/volume on grape and stone fruit imports

The market has plenty of average grapes right now. Domenic Russo, VP of sales for Summit Produce Inc. notes that Eastern cold storage supply is increasing while importers are starting to hold red grapes as they expect arrivals to be down in the upcoming weeks. “Right now, arrivals are 2:1 green to red. Market conditions, because of the California green crop, are 3:1 green to red,” he says.

There are a few factors behind this including this week’s cold storage Western report indicating that California still has three million boxes of grapes compared to last year’s six million boxes at this time. Of that, 40 percent of the remaining grapes in California are green. “Marketers were not anticipating this after Hurricane Hilary and the rains,” says Russo, adding that the price per pound played a big part in this, and in turn, that influenced movement. However red grapes were more impacted by those rains and hurricane.

Timing in Peru
In northern Peru, Piura and Chiclayo have shipped fruit three to four weeks earlier this year due to weather conditions and to avoid potential late rains during December. “They’ve shipped 13 million boxes to the U.S. against 7.5 million boxes last year to the U.S.,” Russo notes. The threat of those rains is pushing growers to speed up harvest.

As for Brazil, its first arrivals were mid-October, only slightly earlier than Peru, and it’s shipping 40 percent more to the U.S. than last year. Chile also has fruit on the water arriving by the end of December--a 20-25 day earlier start.

On grape demand, it’s average at best. “Especially with the price point,” says Russo. The holidays should boost demand though. “Demand looks good for December, decent in January and then we should have promotional volumes by mid-February.” Pricing is similar on good green grapes compared to last year but there is a bigger pricing spread of $10-$12 less for sub-par fruit while red grape pricing is slightly above last year.

Stone fruit imports
In stone fruit, peaches, apricots and nectarines began air shipments two weeks ago from Chile to the U.S. and the first break bulk vessel will arrive between Christmas and New Year’s. “Because of the weather in the South Central region of Chile, we are 10 to 14 days behind and there will be fewer peaches, nectarines and apricots into the U.S.,” Russo says. “This time last year there were 250,000 boxes of stone fruit shipped and right now, there are 50,000 boxes.”

South Africa may also already have plums on the water.

On demand, it’s strong. “Stone fruit will be in demand December into early February and when volume hits, it will fizzle,” says Russo.

As for pricing, air pricing is very good right now.

For more information:
Domenic Russo
Summit Produce Inc.
[email protected]