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Agronometrics in Charts: The triumph of white seedless grapes from Mexico

The Mexican table grape season serves a special niche right between Chile and California’s seasons. As the first trickles began appearing on shelves, there were wide-ranging concerns as well as excitement about the stability of the market and possible price spikes after a late-season freeze in Chile, it seems like those fears were unfounded.

Chile’s volumes have comfortably surpassed last year and, hoping to take advantage of the higher pricing, it seems like a larger percentage of fruit has been sent to the spot market, slashing prices over the last couple of weeks. It’s easy to make these observations after the fact, but maybe John Pandol was onto something when he wrote about this situation at the beginning of March.

Grape volumes (KG) by origin | Conventional
Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

So it seems like the fortunes of Mexican producers will not be made based on the wild pricing the industry was expecting a month ago and exporters will have to continue relying on long-term trends and savvy business plans for success.

With a longer-term view in mind, we can dive into the data reported by the USDA for Mexico's production, where one trend stands out above the rest - the persistent growth of the white seedless variety.

Over the last nine years, this variety has gone from 830,000 million kilograms in 2012 to the second-largest variety imported from Mexico 41.18 million kilograms in 2020, just behind Flame Seedless.

Grape volumes (KG) by variety (white seedless highlighted) | Conventional
Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

There are several reasons that have no doubt contributed to the success of this variety. The consumers' experience with the fruit, the sweetness, crunchiness, etc., but part of the story can be attributed to the production window that white seedless grapes enjoy.

In 2012, the window went from June to July and in 2020 has been expanded to range from April through August with its peak at the beginning of July.

Grape volumes (KG) by variety (white seedless highlighted) | Conventional
[Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here]
(Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics)

This engineering of the production window allows white seedless to take advantage of some of the best pricing available, as Mexico’s fruit tries to fill the production gap left at the end of Chile’s season, typically offering better pricing than the rest of the season.

Grape prices by variety | Conventional from Mexico | USD/18 lb Containers Bagged
Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here

Looking forward to the 2021 season, it appears that the production coming out of Sonora is expected to be slightly lower than last year, however, the largest category will be white seedless with 44 percent of production. A testament to finding the right product at the right time in the right market.

Written by: Colin Fain
Original published in on April 20, 2021 (Link)

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