Over the past few weeks, table grape suppliers have noted that green seedless grape movement has been relatively strong. Although the USDA estimates there are one million fewer boxes of grapes in cold storage compared with this time last year, the market has been flat and prices are not at levels growers would hope. However, the strength in the green seedless market is promising.
"Supplies of green seedless continue to contract, and at the same time, retail movement has favored green seedless over the past few weeks," said Direct Source Marketing's Ira Greenstein. "As a general rule of thumb, red seedless typically outsell green seedless 2 to 1 but we have bucked that trend over the past few weeks."
He added that producers are now looking ahead towards the end of the season, with quality and conditioning remaining strong and forming a nice foundation for the next few months. "Table grape growers and marketers are feeling slightly more comfortable heading into the final three months of the season. Overall quality and condition on the majority of California fruit is very good and consumer support remains strong. Some growers have already started selecting their strongest lots for long-term storage and expectations are to see that trend continue as we progress through October."
Weakness in red market
While not as dire as last year, the red seedless market in California is still facing a number of challenges. The focus is currently on clearing up some of the varieties - such as Scarlet Royals - before their condition deteriorates. Retailers are due to start switching to other varieties anyhow, so there are plenty of promotional opportunities around.
"Fortunately, there are about a million less Scarlet Royal currently in cold storages compared to last year, as many growers replaced Scarlet vineyards in favor of newer varieties," Greenstein noted. "We continue to see aggressive FOB pricing on red seedless and excellent promotional opportunities will be available through the balance of the month. Pricing on good quality red seedless 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. There are still significant volumes of California red seedless to move through and strong retail support will be necessary to work through the volumes."
Green seedless quality set to improve further
The situation for the green seedless market is looking decidedly more optimistic. Despite some challenges associated with mildew, growers are starting to ship their higher-quality lots after having moved through the majority of their crop. Greenstein explained that most producers have made the transition to late-season varieties like Autumn King, Sorbet and Autumn Crisp, and supplies are edging tighter.
"Overall projections for green seedless continue to decline and the consensus is that the industry will come up short by mid-December," he said. "FOB pricing continues to tick higher with some shippers pulling back retail promotions in November. Interestingly, according to the most recent storage report, there are 30 percent more Autumn Kings in cold storage now in comparison to this time last year as marketers look to hedge for the late deal."
"Quality and condition ranges from grower to grower, but we’ve seen a very low rejection rate so far this season," he continued. "Pricing on good quality green seedless currently ranges from $16.95-$18.95 on large and $18.95-$21.95 with the mostly market at $19.95 for XLG fruit. Marketers will most likely try to push prices higher over the next four weeks."
Black seedless more steady
Supplies of black seedless are reportedly similar to what they were at the same time last year. Growers are now well into Autumn Royal and there are good volumes of this varieties coming into the market. The overall market is steady, with prices for black seedless sitting between reds and greens.
"Pricing on Autumn Royal currently ranges from $16.95-$18.95 with size being the determining factor," Greenstein concluded. "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."