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Low availability and transport issues are recurring themes on the current grape market. Peru's lower production and focus on the North American market has an impact on the prices in Europe. Meanwhile, Spain also had issues with the weather and India will have major delays due to the situation on the Red Sea, causing ships to divert. This in turn grants opportunities to the South African grape exporters.

The Netherlands: Concerns about delays for grape supply
"While I found the grape sales a bit slow the week before Christmas, last week wasn't bad at all, both nationally and internationally," observes a Dutch importer. "Over the past few weeks, there have been somewhat larger arrivals of white grapes, particularly from Namibia. The supply from South Africa is still somewhat behind, although they had a good 'packing week' last week. All in all, I expect quite a bit of fruit on the market towards mid-late January. There is also still availability/presence from Brazil, which has caused the market to drop a bit over the past week. Meanwhile, the white grape market seems to be stabilizing.”

"The market for red grapes remains sparse. With this, Brazil is almost out of the market and the volume must largely come from Namibia, as South Africa is lagging in arrivals because those grapes have not developed color well. For red grapes, I expect a demanding market until mid, and perhaps even late January,” the importer states. However, delays are again the order of the day and promise to become a significant factor in availability in the coming weeks. Last week two large boats were supposed to set sail, but they are still in Cape Town due to lack of capacity and strong winds. I’m quite worried about this and fear that this will cause gaps in the coming weeks. The conventional ships do offer an alternative, but they will certainly not completely alleviate this concern."

Germany: Lower imports from Brazil this season
Overseas goods from Peru and Brazil are currently dominating the grape market. In week 51-52, the availability of South African and Namibian batches also increased noticeably. Meanwhile, the Italian grape season was definitely coming to an end. Turkish Sultana grapes were also increasingly disappearing from the market. Brazilian grapes are currently priced at 4.10-4.30 euros/kg, while Peruvian and Turkish goods are being marketed at slightly lower prices of 3.40-3.50 euros/kg per kilo.

In Brazil in particular, there is a considerable decline in exports of around 20 per cent compared to 2021 and 2022. Meanwhile, Peruvian grape producers are suffering greatly from the El Nino effect this year and will feel the consequences and effects of this even more in 2024, as one grape importer describes the current challenges in the procurement of goods.

North America: Supply shortage due to weather conditions
California’s table grape season ended early due to a hurricane that wiped out a significant part of table grape production in the southern part of the state. To fill a gap in the market, Peru started shipping to the US market earlier than usual. However, Peru’s northern grape growing region was also negatively affected by weather patterns, causing production losses and quality problems. While production in Peru’s Ica region in the south is very positive, overall export numbers from Peru are expected to end up between 60 and 62 million cartons, down significantly from the pre-season forecast of 73 million cartons. Harvest in the southern Ica region will finish early as many of the major growers will be done with their harvest between the 2nd and 3rd week of January. Demand for grapes in North America is very strong and given the supply shortage from Peru, it is expected to remain stable throughout the Peruvian season, but probably longer. After Peru has finished shipping, the US market will rely on Chile until Mexico starts up in April/May.

Italy: End of campaign gives cause for optimism
The Sicilian table grape campaign ended at least a month early. In the past, the product was generally stored to be marketed over the Christmas period. A few consignments from Apulia were available during the festive period, but in rather small quantities. For next year, Sicilian production will look with great interest at the conversion to seedless grapes, without disregarding the traditional varieties, in a precise perspective of radical redevelopment.

The end of the 2023 campaign gives cause for optimism for Mazzarrone PGI table grapes. Lower yields have been recorded due to weather conditions that have naturally selected certain vineyards that are now old. Producers are already busy reorganizing and replanting vineyards with new seedless varieties, especially late and white varieties. Nevertheless, the 2023 Italia variety has been very well received by the markets, thanks to its exceptional taste and muscat aroma.

On the main Italian wholesale markets, Spanish white Aledo grapes (at around €4.50/kg) and Peruvian Red Globe (at around €3.50-€3.60/kg) are currently available.

Spain: Higher losses than expected due to impact of heat
2023 ended with very high prices for table grapes in the Spanish market as a result of a drop in the volumes of the white traditional seeded grapes produced domestically, as well as of the seedless grapes from Peru. The domestic seedless grape season ended earlier this year. It has been a season with much higher losses than expected due to the impact of the heat, which has also accelerated the end of the marketing campaign, as it has not been possible to store as many grapes. Prices have been low in Spain, while export prices have not been bad, according to a producer and exporter.

The New Year's Eve campaign in the domestic market, in which grapes consumption skyrockets every year, was marked by a high demand and a low availability, which resulted in much higher prices than the ones of last season during the same period. On the one hand, the traditional Aledo white grapes with seed from the Vinalopó Valley, in Alicante, have recorded a notable drop in the production due to the impact of hail storms in late spring, in addition to the fact that the heat accelerated their ripening and affected their quality, causing prices to be substantially higher this year. With seeded white grapes being so expensive this year, many Spanish supermarket chains have been turning to imported seedless varieties, which are also in short supply, given Peru, the most important origin for seedless grapes at that moment, was registering a 30% drop in the production and dealt with quality issues. Although not as high as those of Spanish seeded grapes, Peruvian grape prices have been also higher due to a lower supply and higher production costs. Still, this didn’t translate into a drop in consumption.

Portugal: Sales ended in last week of November
The Portuguese grape campaign ran until the end with a high volume. Normally the season finishes at the end of December. But this year sales ended in the last week of November with seedless red and white grapes. Demand has been very strong in Europe, an exporter explains. “We were surprised by the high demand in the European market, especially at the end of the campaign when there was an increase compared to the previous years. The Autumn Crisp and Sweet Celebration varieties did especially well and received very positive feedback for their quality. Perhaps the most challenging part of the season was understanding the differences in each of these new markets and adapting to them. Finding new paths requires specialization and attention to detail.”

India: Red Sea situation a real problem for grape exports to Europe
India’s plentiful production should have meant that the export volumes to Europe this year would almost double compared to last year. However, the current disruption in shipments caused by the recent attack on commercial vessels in the Red Sea area has obviously had a huge impact on Indian table grape shipments. The majority of the lines said that they had kept the ships at sea or that just a small number of ships had been rerouted via the Cape to ports in Europe. They might also alter the schedule for the ships that are supposed to travel the Red Sea route.

This new route will add both time and costs for anyone trying to export their product, which makes a real difference when it comes to fresh produce. A few logistics agents also mentioned that ships may begin taking the longer, Cape-based route to Europe from Asia, which will cost several hundred dollars more than the former rates and need an additional 10 to 15 days of travel time. Though there hasn’t been an official statement just yet, they might soon begin charging for a ‘War Risk Surcharge’ as well.

South Africa: Domestic market is strong
The grape harvest is in full swing. Namibia has ended what was reportedly a very good season, while the northern region is ending off a campaign with very good quality, according to an exporter. Rain in the Hex River at the end of the year has meant an early end to the early varieties – a number of sources have confirmed that ARRA Passion Fire, Starlight, Prime and Tawny were particularly affected by burst berries.

However, an industry source points out that the Hex River’s early varieties constitute a very small part of South Africa’s total grape volumes – Crimson, a mainstay of the area, starts next week – and that the loss of grapes could have a negligible effect on South Africa’s exports. The domestic grape market is strong, which offers a strong counterpoint to exports, especially given that two vessels loaded with grapes and other fruit have been at the port of Cape Town for close to two weeks now

Peru concentrated on North America (Peru’s reduction in volumes will mostly affect their late varieties now coming in) while the impassibility of the Red Sea is going to force Indian grape exporters to send their grapes for Europe at much higher cost around the Cape of Good hope. That will bring Indian grape suppliers more in line with their South African counterparts in terms of freight costs and transit time to market. Trade with South East Asia will start picking up over the next few weeks; those markets are very specific on the varieties they accept which typically include later varieties.

UK: Supply was short in lead up to Christmas
The Peruvian grape season has suffered the impact of El Nino which has been seen in the two main producing areas. In Piura in the north the harvest started earlier resulting in a drop in yields by around 40%, the weather also affected quality. “Peru is known for its high quality of grapes and people get used to that,” said a UK importer. “As well as lower yields which will affect exports to Europe, the North American market is short after California finishing early. A lot grapes are being sent there and they are getting high prices.”

In the Ica region in the south growers were also concerned about the weather, especially rain during the harvest period. “The bigger growers pruned the vineyards early to start harvest before possible rain. This has caused an overlap in supply, which will translate to less volume in the second half of the season.”

Due to the lower volumes the EU is also paying higher prices, supply was short in lead up to Christmas as Northern Hemisphere growers also did not have a great season and average quality from Brazil is low as well. Supply from Namibia covered the Christmas demand.

Belgium: Red grapes availability lower than for white seedless grapes
The grape market is currently dominated by Peru. This is indicated by a Belgian trader. “Everything that comes in is sold almost immediately. However, about 20 to 25 percent less volume comes in from Peru compared to other years. The reason for this mainly lies in the fact that more is going to the United States. They can also work there with great prices, but the transport costs are considerably lower. We see the consequences of this mainly in the red seedless. We finished very well last year, but we are currently working with comparable prices to what we saw at the end of last year. However, there is not much difference between the two colors. Red is less available than the white seedless, but in general the prices are virtually the same per kilo. We also work with seeded and this is also going well. Although this is considerably less in volumes than the seedless, the demand for this is generally also less, which keeps each other nicely balanced.”

France: high prices as volumes drop
The majority of grapes sold on the French market at this time come from Spain. Quality problems in Italy have sharply reduced volumes, which ceased to be present on the market in mid-December. Volumes of Spanish grapes have also been reduced this season by drought and hail, resulting in significant sorting differences. This drop in volumes has resulted in "very high prices, almost double those of a normal season".

Next week: Global Market Overview Blueberries