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Market Report by Mark Greenberg, CEO Capespan North America

North America sees dramatic increase in table grape imports from Chile

In Week 9 there were rays of hope in the industry, suggesting that the USEC imported table grape market was waking up from its slump and that product was beginning to move at a more energetic pace. The fact remains, though, that one week later storages remain heavily-laden with table grapes of varying ages and pedigrees, all being offered in a market showing a wide range of prices and a continuing, general lethargy. There remains plenty of fruit that will not meet the specifications of even the most tolerant chain store and which will need to be donated to food banks, dumped or consigned to a saturated wholesale market, which is struggling to push into distribution the volume already in its hands. Indeed, the effort to avoid wholesale consignment by pushing marginal quality product into the retail chains may well be the root cause of this generally listless USEC table grape market. 

68% increase over same period last season
By the end of Week 9, Chile had landed 18.4 million cases of table grapes on the USEC, representing a 68% increase over the same period last season. Total Flame volumes are up 61%, Sugarone volumes are up 35% and Thompson Seedless are up a whopping 94% over the volume shipped last season through the same date. Finally, Crimson arrivals on the USEC through Week 9 are over three times greater than last season’s arrivals in the same period. 
 
Today, Chilean Flames, showing good condition, are selling at US$ 16 - 18 for X-Large (900), US$ 14 - 16 for Large (700) and US$ 10 – 12 (mostly US$10) for M-Large (500). Weak fruit showing its age will get less money and, if consigned to the wholesale market, will get virtually nothing. Retail interest in Flames is diminished as retailers are increasingly demanding Crimsons or any one of the new late season red varieties. The opportunities for a soft landing for the remaining Flames are becoming scarce. 

Crimsons sales are at levels that are in line with normal expectations. Pricing at the end of Week 10 is US$ 22 – 24 for X (900), US$ 20 – 22 for Large (700) and US$ 18 – 20 for M-Large (500). Crimson arrivals will continue to mount in the coming weeks, although the pace of loadings may be affected by the fact that the fruit has been slow to take color.
 
White seedless grape prices have been struggling under the combined weight of heavy Chilean loadings, heavy Peruvian inventories and the indifferent table grape market. Today, on light to moderate demand, good lots of Peruvian Sugarones and Chilean Thompson Seedless are selling at US$ 18 – 20 for X-Large (900), US$ 16 – 18 (mostly US$ 18) for Large (700) and US$ 12 – 14 (mostly US$ 14) on M-Large (500). 

Last Chilean Thompson seedless packed 
The last of the Chilean Thompson Seedless have been packed and will be shipped in Week 11 suggesting that Week 13 will see the last major Thompson Seedless arrivals. Crimsons will continue to be packed and shipped through Week 12 with the last significant arrivals on the USEC expected through Week 15. Of course, there will be stragglers, especially given the difficulty that has been encountered in getting fruit with adequate color. 
 
We expect the red seedless (Crimson and new, late varieties’) prices to remain firm in the US$ 20 – 22 range. There is an expectation - a hope, really - that the early end to the Chilean season will push late red seedless prices over US$ 24 in April. But the anticipation of an early May start to the Sonoran and desert California Flames may serve to keep prices from moving too far above their current levels. 
 
White seedless prices will not rebound for a couple of weeks. Sellers will try to hold fruit while inventories become less glutted. By the first week of April, we expect to see a price uptick and storage fruit that has retained its condition will be well-rewarded..
 
Finally, we note that North America is not the only market seeing a dramatic increase in Chilean table grape loadings. Indeed, with the fast pace and heavy volume being produced in Chile, and as news of the limping US market has spread, Chilean exporters have increased their loadings to Europe and Asia. 

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

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