Since India exported more and for longer to Europe, Israeli and Egyptian exporters were in trouble, as they had to cope with a larger volume. To make matters worse for Egyptian exporters, there was also an early start of the season in Spain and Italy, which resulted in grapes being sold at dump prices. Spanish and Italian growers are dealing with a difficult market, but there is still optimism. In China, much is being invested in grape cultivation, which will also lead to higher export volumes. The season in Australia is already over, but most growers and exporters may even be grateful about it. In California, the situation is more positive, as due to a good demand, traders are satisfied with the prices
Tough season for Egyptian grapes
Egyptian exporters have had a difficult season, especially in their main destinations for their grapes: Europe and the United Kingdom. The sector was faced with three challenges. First of all, the Indian season lasted longer and they shipped a much larger volume to Europe. A total of about 8,000 containers of seedless white grapes have reportedly been shipped from India to Europe. As a result, the European market was filled with Indian grapes during the Egyptian season.
Secondly, the harvest started in Egypt ten days later than normal due to the cool weather. Consequently, the harvest focused on a ten-day period and transport routes to Europe became saturated.
Thirdly, the early start in Spain pushed the Egyptian fruit away. The first Spanish grapes hit the retail store shelves in July. The start of the Spanish season immediately means the end of the Egyptian campaign, as most supermarkets prefer a European product. Egyptian traders were forced to sell the grapes at dump prices.
Challenging market for Spanish grapes
The start of the season was particularly difficult for white seedless grapes due to competition from Egypt, which dumped its grapes on the market because of fear to an early start of the seasons in Italy and Spain. In the Netherlands, prices dropped even below 1 Euro per kilo.
Due to the heat wave, the harvest was delayed and it takes longer for the fruit to reach the correct Brix level. An exporter explains that they currently don't have the volume available for export. He is focusing on the domestic market. However, the demand is limited and the price remains low despite the shortages and the high number of tourists that Spain is attracting this year. Also, the competition from other summer fruits plays a role. Prices for stonefruit and melons are low this year, but with good quality. Compared with last year, prices are a little lower. The temperature has now fallen sharply, by 10 degrees, and this seems to improve the demand. Exporters and growers still have hope for the rest of the season.
India has impact on Israeli exports
Exports show a whimsical pattern. This year has been a disappointment for the sector. Due to the weather and diseases, the harvest volume was reduced. This, in combination with low prices in Europe, caused exporters to lose their interest in shipping overseas. As a result, a larger volume was distributed on the domestic market, which caused prices to come under pressure.
The country has 3,000 hectares devoted to grape cultivation, most of which are found in the Lachish and Jordan Valley regions. The latter is where most grapes for export are grown. Due to the dry and warm climate in the valley, the harvest is carried out early. The full export season lasts for 5 to 6 weeks, filling the gap between the end of the Indian season and the start of the Egyptian and Spanish seasons. Typically, the Indian season ends in May, but this year, the country exported more grapes to Europe. The prices at the start of the Israeli season were low. The volumes therefore also fell below average.
During a normal season, about 15% of growers export their grapes. With a market situation like this year's, this percentage drops to 5%. Most of the harvest is distributed in the domestic market, where the season lasts until the summer months. At present, a kilo of grapes costs about 2.30 Euro, which is relatively low.
Italy: "Good quality, but low volumes"
The harvest has already started in several regions. The situation in all these regions is described as: "good quality, but low volumes." This applies to Apulia (Victoria, Black Magic and Sugraone), the early regions of the Baroque coast (Mola di Bari, Torre a Mare), northern Barese and Tarantino (San Ferdinando di Puglia, Grottaglie, Ginosa and Castellaneta). Lower volumes are expected especially for the Red Globe and Crimson Seedless. For now, the heat is not having any impact on grape cultivation, partly due to the use of irrigation.
In any case, the results are satisfactory. Growers say that the market is still quiet, but as of 15 August, rising demand and prices are expected. However, there may be competition from other Mediterranean countries. A grower reports that the harvest of the Vittoria grapes started later this year. Due to bad weather, the Brix level was too low. In the international market, there is a lot of competition from other countries, including Chile, India and South Africa. In addition, according to a trader, Italian grapes must compete directly against Israel, Turkey, Egypt and Moldova; an "uneven fight." Growers are working hard to find new customers. For example, a large producer signed a deal with Auchan this year. Export destinations are mostly in Europe (the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Poland, Germany and France) and abroad (Brazil, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Pakistan and Nigeria).
France: Frost damage in the south-east
In the south-east of the country, the first greenhouse-grown grapes (Prima and Cardinals) were harvested in week 28. Like many other fruits, the season started ten days earlier than usual. Larger volumes are expected from August. Overall, the harvest is slightly lower, especially in the south-east. The grapes were damaged by night frost in April. For some areas, losses are expected to reach up to 50%; however, the season start has not been affected by this. The regions that first came to the market escaped the frost. The end of the season in the south-east will happen much earlier, especially after last year's season lasted until the beginning of 2017.
The PDO Muscat de Ventoux is supplying 2,000 tonnes (grown on 150 hectares) of the total 50,000 tonnes of French grapes this year. The variety celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, so various events and a promotion at the start of the school year are being organised to mark the occasion. The south-west has not suffered the impact of frost because the growers were prepared for it. Apart from a few minor incidents, the Chasselas Moissac grape production is expected to fall by just 5 to 6%.
Italian grapes dominate in Belgium
It is mainly Italian grapes that are sold in the Belgian market. "The quality is excellent and the start of the season is good," states a trader when asked about the situation. "Italian grapes are known to be the most common, but we are seeing an increase in the availability of seedless grapes. Also in Italy, more growers are switching to seedless varieties."
Chinese production continues to rise
The Chinese grape cultivation is flourishing. Thanks to the expanding acreage, the harvest will increase by 600,000 tonnes this year and reach 10.2 million tonnes. This is also beneficial for exports, which are expected to increase by 33,000 tonnes and amount to about 260,000 tonnes. Most of the exports are intended for countries in the region, especially Malaysia and Indonesia, which are purchasing considerable volumes. One of the varieties exported is the Red Global, which is mainly grown in the Yunnan and Xinjiang provinces. The harvest of these red grapes in Yunnan kicked off in June, two weeks earlier than normal. Later, Xinjiang followed. Yunnan's harvest volume has fallen by about 40%, which translated into a price increase of 20% to 30%.
Grape imports are also expected to rise. Estimates point to an increase of 16,000 tonnes, which will bring the total imported volume to 265,000 tonnes. Demand for grapes continues to increase, resulting in more imports from Chile, Peru, South Africa, Australia and the US. This year, Argentina has also signed an export protocol with China.
Good demand for grapes in California
In California, the harvest started in May. Compared with previous years, it has kicked off later this season, although a trader stated that the start was on a normal date. In recent years, the season has been starting earlier than usual. Up until the end of the season in January, 111.4 million boxes had been packed with 19 pounds (8.6 kg) of grapes. That's almost 3 million boxes more than in the previous year. Although more than 85 varieties are grown in the United States, the most popular varieties are the Scarlet Royal, Autumn King, Flame Seedless, Crimson Seedless and Sugraone. Last year, 93% of the harvest consisted of seedless grapes.
The export market is relatively small, accounting for 36% of the harvest. The major export markets are Canada, Mexico, China, Philippines, Taiwan and Japan. Due to the good demand, prices are at a good level, according to a trader.
Australia is looking back on a difficult season
The season is over. Many growers and exporters are looking back on a difficult season with a late start. Australian grapes usually fill a gap in the market, but due to the late start, there was overlap with the Chilean season. Some exporters decided to export grapes too early, shipping fruit that didn't actually meet the necessary requirements. There was also an overlap with Chilean grapes on the new export destinations, Japan and Korea. China was also a difficult market this season.