Suppliers are noting that the table grape market is well balanced right now, especially in comparison to last season. With less acreage on certain varieties, along with steady movement thanks to aggressive retail promotions, inventories are sitting at comfortable levels.
"According to the most recent USDA report, there are close to 3 million fewer boxes in cold storage, due to a combination of less acreage of Scarlet Royals and better overall movement," observed Ira Greenstein of Direct Source Marketing. "With fairly aggressive pricing and solid program business in place, marketers and retailers have found a synergistic middle-ground and are keeping fruit moving through the system."
However, he warned that while overall quality has been good, some condition issues have arisen and are set to continue. Additionally, the momentum of strong consumer support will be needed through October as there is still plenty of fruit remaining.
There is still good volumes of red seedless grapes available out of the San Joaquin Valley. Some of the varieties include Scarlet Royals, Sweet Celebration, and Krissy, among others. Suppliers say the general market is down, despite good movement and less fruit around than at the same time last year.
"With 1.7 million fewer boxes of red seedless currently in cold storage, marketers are in a much better position in comparison to last year," Greenstein noted. "Pricing on good quality red seedless currently ranges from $12.95-$13.95 on medium/large, $13.95-$14.95 on large and $14.95-$16.95 on x-large with the mostly market at $15.95."
He added that QA teams will be paying closer attention to fruit condition on arrival as the weeks go by. "Typically, by the 15th of October the industry should look to move away from Scarlet Royal and focus on later varieties."
Early finish for green seedless?
As shippers transition to latter-season green seedless varieties like Autumn Kings, Autumn Crisp, Pristine and Sorbet, quality inspections will become more important as the industry looks to avoid any issues - such as mildew - relating to the wet conditions in California earlier in the season. Expectations are for the season to finish earlier than anticipated, prompting marketers to consider raising prices.
"Overall market conditions on green seedless are beginning to shift as the industry works through the last remaining mid-season varieties and transitions into the late-season storage crop," Greenstein explained. "Pricing currently ranges from $14.95-$15.95 on medium large, $15.95-$16.95 on large and $17.95-$20.95 for x-large. Some growers are still looking to discount weaker quality lots with pricing $1-$2 below general quotes. Look for overall pricing to adjust higher week by week on California green seedless."
Organic supplies contracting
When it comes to organic table grapes, Greenstein has described the season as "hit or miss". Volumes are declining now and pricing is moving higher as this tightens further. He said, "Pricing on good quality organic red seedless currently ranges from $22.95 on 19# bags and $24.95 on 10/2# clamshells. Organic green seedless pricing has ticked higher ranging from $24.95-$26.95 on 19# bags and $26.95-$28.95 on 10/2# clamshells. Look for pricing to remain at these levels as availability begins to tighten week by week."
Good volumes on black seedless
Lastly, the black seedless crop continues to produce steady volumes. Autumn Royals are now being packed and suppliers expect these to be available through the middle of December. Greenstein shared that pricing on early Autumn Royal currently ranges from $16.95-$18.95, depending on size. He also noted that Midnight Beauty is still seeing good volumes.
"There have been decent volumes of Midnight Beauty black seedless with growers and shippers looking for a premium with pricing ranging from $16.95-$20.95. Look for excellent opportunities to promote California Autumn Royal through the balance of the fall."