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The table grape industry is in uncharted territory right now


Overview of the potential impact of COVID-19 on future grape supply and price, by Ira Greenstein of Direct Source Marketing, complemented by charts from Agronometrics.



Original published in FreshPlaza.com on March 24, 2020

While the Chilean and Peruvian grape seasons are winding down and their weekly volumes are decreasing, the table grape industry has seen an uptick in demand in the past weeks. This is partially a result of the high retail movements due to the coronavirus panic-shopping of the past few weeks. Ira Greenstein of Direct Source Marketing says: “A month ago, importers had a real concern that the industry wouldn’t be able to move through the condensed volumes and huge inventories would be sitting in cold storages. That sentiment has completely reversed with substantially increased retail demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

With the lower volumes but increasing demand, the cold stores are rapidly being depleted and spot market pricing is expected to continue to increase, though due to the rapid changes in the global situation with regard to the virus it is difficult to predict pricing and availability, Greenstein remarks. “If movement continues at this current pace, we will likely see table grape supplies dry up by the third week of April,” he says.

Volumes (in KG) of Chilean grapes in the US market from 2017 to 2020


Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)


A potential grape supply shortage between Chilean and Mexican grape season in 2020?

Volumes (in KG) of grapes in the US market in 2019.



Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Quality issues on green seedless

While the volumes of green seedless grapes coming into the US have been decreasing, unfortunately so has the quality. Greenstein says: “As we head towards the end of the month, pricing will continue to rise but quality will remain fair at best with only select lots of premium green seedless available.”

While quality isn’t high, the pricing continues to increase due to the low volumes. “Spot market pricing on green seedless continues to tick higher ranging from $24-$26 on medium/large, $26-$28 on large and $28-$32 on extra-large. Some importers are already quoting prices north of $40 for April. If fruit continues to move briskly, we will certainly see good quality fruit clean up before Mexico can start filling the pipeline,” Greenstein shares.

Price (in USD) of grapes in the US market from 2018 to 2020


Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Focus shifts from origin to quality for red seedless.

The red seedless grapes have been seeing strong movement this season, and there has been high retail demand in the US. “Cold storages once filled with aging inventories are now back to very manageable levels and importers are starting to wonder if they have enough fruit on-hand and still arriving from South America to extend the season until the transition to Mexico. Even before the virus became a factor, consumer support and movement on both Peruvian and Chilean red seedless was strong,” remarks Greenstein.

One shift that Greenstein has noticed this year in the market is that buyers are focusing more on quality and condition of the grapes rather than origin. “The main varieties topping weekly shipping reports are Sweet Celebration, Timco, Allison and Crimsons and these are all at similar pricing levels,” he says. The pricing is expected to increase towards the end of the month, as the volumes coming out of Chile will continue to decrease.

The black seedless grapes are enjoyed a steady equilibrium in the market, with good volume, demand, and quality. “There are decent volumes of Chilean Autumn Royals and Peruvian Sweet Flavors readily available,” says Greenstein. Just as for the red and the green seedless grapes, pricing is expected to increase in April.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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