By Mark Greenberg, CEO Capespan North America

Market report grapes, California citrus and Argentina lemons

Grapes
The last of California’s white seedless grapes shipped in Week 50 and from Week 51 onward, the market for this product will belong to the Peruvians and Chileans. California red seedless grapes, on the other hand, will continue to be available through December and into the New Year. But pricing on domestic red seedless is coming under pressure due to continued high storage inventories, increasing availability of Peruvian Crimsons and the first bulk vessel arrival of Chilean grapes on the USEC, with more to follow. The result has been a softening in the California red seedless price level in Week 50 to US$ 16 – 20, mostly US$ 16 – 18. 
 
Late in Week 49 rain fell over most of Chile’s grape producing regions with light precipitation in the Atacama Region (Copiapó and Vallenar) and Coquimbo (Ovalle, Vicuña, Combarbalá) and substantially heavier rain in the Aconcagua Valley (San Felipe and Los Andes), the Metropolitan Santiago Region and south to Rancagua. The light northern precipitation (1 mm or less) had limited impact on the grape harvest which is in full swing. The heavier rain in the Aconcagua Valley (in some areas up to 20 mm) will have a greater impact, especially on early blocks where the fruit (mostly Flames) was laden with sugar and nearing harvest. The impact on fruit from the Metropolitan Santiago Region and the South should not be dramatic as the grapes in those regions are still young and growers will take preventative measures to mitigate the impact of the rain. But still, this was a rain that nobody needed and nobody wanted. 
 
Through Week 49, Peruvian Crimsons and Sugarones have dominated the USEC imported table grape business with 860 000 cases of red seedless and 1 000 000 cases of Sugarone having shipped to the USEC since the beginning of the season. 
In Week 50, Chile arrived on the USEC with its first bulk vessel, the Hellas Reefer, which carried 228 000 cases of Flames and 275 000 cases of assorted white seedless varieties including Thompson Seedless, Perlettes and Sugarones. The vessel also carried blueberries, cherries and a range of stone fruit. 
 
The second Chilean bulk vessel headed to the USEC, the Swan Chacabuco, will arrive early in Week 51, with another 325 000 cases of Flames and 200 000 cases of white seedless. Only part of this fruit will get into distribution for Christmas. 
 
Imported red seedless pricing in Week 50, which includes Peruvian Crimsons and Chilean Flames, is at US$ 32 - 34 for X-Large (900), US$ 30 - 32 for Large, US$ 28 for M-Large (500) and US$ 26 for Medium (300). These prices will likely hold through Week 51 but could well soften as we move into the week between Christmas and New Year's when we anticipate continued arrivals but expect light movement. 
 
Imported white seedless pricing is substantially more robust with little or no domestic fruit around to offer retailers a cheaper alternative. Pricing on Peruvian and Chilean white seedless are at US$ 40+ for X-Large (900) and US$ 38 - 40 for Large (700). It is early to quote a market for M-Large (500) white seedless from Chile, but headed into Christmas week, we should expect that fruit to move in the US$ 34 - 36 range.
 
Peruvian Red Globes are also available and are selling at US$ 22 – 24 for X-Large (900) and US$ 20 – 22 for Large (700). As red seedless arrivals increase and prices soften, Red Globe prices will also moderate. 
 
The open question is what impact will last week’s rain have on the grape market. With most of the impact likely to be felt on the earliest of the Aconcagua Valley vineyards, we could see some shortfall on the earliest Flames and Sugarones from that region. But there is no expectation of any dramatic shortfall in the crop. The biggest challenge will come in the packhouses where growers will need to sort fruit carefully to remove cracked or damaged berries. If sorting is not done well, or if the damage is more pervasive than is being reported, we could see a two-tier market emerge in mid-January when rained-on fruit arrives at its destination. 

California Citrus 
The domestic citrus season is in the pre-Christmas trough with slow but steady movement. The harvest, though, continues to gain momentum. Precipitation in Week 49 slowed picking in some sectors, but by the start of Week 50, production was picking up. 
 
Navel orange size continues to tend toward smaller calibers with commensurate pricing. In Week 50, navel oranges in large calibers (40-48-56) available in fair to moderate volume, have been selling at US$ 15.50 – 16.50 for Fancy and US$ 12.50 – 13.50 for Choice. 72’s are selling at US$ 13 – 14 for Fancy and US$ 11.50 – 12.50 for Choice. 88’s are plentiful and are selling at US$ 11.50 – 13.50 for Fancy and US$ 10.50 – 11.50 for Choice. Small caliber 113’s and 138’s are selling at US$ 9.50 – 10.50.
 
Bagged navel oranges in 8 x 4 lbs are selling at US$ 13.00 – 14.50 and 6 x 8 lbs are selling at US$ 16.50 – 17.50 for larger caliber (72’s) and at US$ 14.50 – 16.50 for smaller calibers (88’s, 113’s and 138’s). 
 
Clementines in 10 x 3 lbs bags are moving steadily at US$ 26 – 30 for larger calibers (32’s and larger) and US$ 24 – 26 for smaller sizes (36’s, 40’s and 44’s). 
 
The lemon market is steady. Large-size conventional lemons are moving at US$ 32-34 for 95’s and US$ 30-32 for 115’s. Smaller fruit is moving at US$ 22-24 for 140’s and 165’s and US$ 20-22 for 200’s. 
 
Meyer lemons are selling at US$ 25 in 40 lbs. 

Argentine Lemons 
The Argentine Government website reported that Governor Juan Manzur of Tucumán Province, recently met with representatives of the USDA and, according to Governor Manzur, the agency was planning to publish a rule permitting lemons from Tucumán to enter the United States. The USDA had called for public comments on such a proposed rule in the spring of 2016. 
 
Governor Manzur stated that all technical requirements for the approval have been met and all that remained was the “political decision” of the United States government to publish the approval and its terms and conditions. 
 
With a new administration taking office in the United States in January, it seems unlikely that any rule will be published before that time. It is also not at all clear what the political position of the new administration will be on this issue even in spite of strong technical support for the approval.

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

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