Market Report by Mark Greenberg, CEO Capespan North America

Soft table grape market

The imported table grape market in the aftermath of the Christmas / New Years festivities continues to exhibit lacklustre performance, especially with respect to red seedless grapes. Indeed, the uptake of imported grapes was underwhelming in the last weeks of December and remains so in the first week of the year. Inventories are building quickly on the USEC as the early Chilean Flame crop continues to arrive at a pace that is well in excess of what the market is able to absorb. This is creating an unstable and soft market. 
 
Part of the problem is that California sources continue to ship red seedless grapes that continue to make satisfactory arrival. While there is some expectation that the California red seedless inventory will be exhausted by Week 2, the fruit will likely linger in the market longer. The very presence of this fruit offers retailers a domestic option that has had a depressing impact on the market by causing imported red seedless inventories to languish. Domestic white seedless grapes, on the other hand, are done and retail chains have had to rely on Peruvian and Chilean sources. 

Through Week 1, Chilean sources had landed 3.1 million cases of Flames on the USEC or 7 times the volume that arrived over the same period last year, a season that was admittedly dramatic in the shortfall of early table grape arrivals. Another 995 000 cases of Flames will arrive on the USEC in Week 2. White seedless arrivals from Chile are also up substantially from last season, but not quite as dramatically as Flames. 
 
Added to this are the Peruvian Crimsons and Sugarones which have been arriving since late-October. Since the start of the season, Peru has landed over 1.1 million cases of Sugarones on the USEC and another 700 000 cases of Crimsons. 

So it is no wonder that the imported table grape market is unstable with prices that range widely. The range reflects each specific seller’s imperative to lighten its inventory, the strength of the fruit that comprises that inventory the seller’s particular view of the future and his level of anxiety in respect of it.
 
The red seedless market is soft. At the opening of Week 1, Crimsons and Flames were selling at US$ 26 – 28 for X-Large (900), US$ 24 – 26 (mostly US$ 24) for Large (700), US$ 22 – 24 for M-Large (500) and US$ $16 – 18 (mostly US$ 16) for Medium (300). But in the latter part of the week, and into Week 2, these prices have fallen off to US$ 24 – 26 (mostly US$ 24) for X-Large (900), US$ 20 – 22 for Large (700), US$ 16 – 20 for MLarge (500) and US$ 14 – 16 for Medium (300). 
 
The white seedless market is stronger, but is also trending downward. At the start of the week, Chilean and Peruvian white seedless were selling at US$ 36 for x-Large (900), US$ 32 – 34 (mostly US$ 34) for Large (700) and US$ 30 for M-Large (500). But by the end of the week, these prices had come off by US$ 2 on all calibers for orders shipping into the weekend and early in Week 2. 
 
With California red seedless grape supplies running out, most chain stores are likely to fully switch over to imported grape sources in Week 2. This should add some stability to the market, but it will alone not be sufficient to relieve the inventory build-up. Indeed, the red seedless market may well remain sloppy and weak through January. With some receivers sitting on substantial volumes of fruit, and with more to come, the market is going to need promotional focus on table grapes. If we hope to see longer term stability in the imported table grape market and a robust and healthy mid season, the grape selling industry is going to have to devote efforts to divert retail promotional attention away from widely available berries and melons – products that lend themselves well to promotion – in favor of grapes.

For more information:
Mark Greenberg
CEO
Capespan North America
Tel: +1 (514) 739 9181

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