The table grape season in California remains steady, suppliers say, as growers now focus on selecting better quality fruit for long term storage while encouraging movement with good prices on grapes that need to move more quickly. Ira Greenstein of Direct Source Marketing, says that according to the most recent USDA Storage Report there are about 4.5 million fewer boxes of California table grapes currently in cold storages compared to this time last year.
"This is due to a combination of better program business in place, a slight reduction in overall acreage and better movement," he explained. "Retailers are continuing to lend their support by spotlighting California table grapes in weekly circulars, and expectations are to see that trend continue through the balance of the month."
There are still good volumes of grapes in the market though, and suppliers and marketers are keen to continue promotional efforts in order to maintain the current steady movement as the season enters its latter stages.
In parallel with the overall grape market, there are less red seedless grapes in storage than at this time last year. Scarlet Royals are still in good supply and quality has been excellent due to the dry weather. However, it will soon be time for a transition to other varieties as the Scarlet Royal season heads towards its end.
"A good portion are being set aside for storage, but the majority are being picked, packed and shipped, as Scarlet Royal aren’t typically built to hold long-term," Greenstein noted. "There are about 1 million fewer boxes of Scarlet Royal currently in cold storages compared to last year with other red seedless and Alisons at similar levels."
The red seedless market appears to be steady. "Marketers are continuing to offer aggressive pricing ranging 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," Greenstein said. "After Scarlet Royal, Alison and Scarlotta will be the primary varieties available through the balance of the season. There will be ample opportunities to promote California red seedless through the balance of the month and overall volumes should carry the industry well into December."
Prices on green grapes edge higher
The green seedless market has been strong as supplies are tighter than red grapes, and quality has remained generally good. Suppliers say that the lesser quality lots have been largely exhausted now, leaving the higher priced grapes on the market. With prices already trending higher due to the fast approaching end of the California season, this is only serving to bolster the market further.
"Pricing on good quality fresh-packed Autumn Kings currently ranges from $18.95-$21.95 with size and condition being the determining factors," Greenstein observed. "All indicators point to California green seedless coming up short this year, as overall supplies currently in cold storages are down about 25 percent compared to this time last year. With mildew and other condition related issues continuing to affect pack-outs, it’s unclear how this year’s storage portion of the season will play out. In the short term, look for pricing to hold at these levels for the next few weeks and adjust higher as we head into the month of November."
Black seedless market "sluggish"
While red and green seedless grapes are enjoying good movement, the black seedless market has been described as "sluggish" by Greenstein. He noted that despite good promotional pricing and volumes, more aggressive pricing may be needed in order to move more fruit through the system.
"Growers and shippers are harvesting good volumes of Autumn Royal, which will be the primary variety available through the balance of the year," he concluded. "Pricing currently ranges from $14.95-$16.95 on large and $16.95-$18.95 on x-large with the mostly market at $17.95."