While this year's Indian grape harvest will likely be early by about two weeks, it still doesn't mean most of the country's grapes are ready to ship yet. Volume is expected to be greater than that from previous years, so prices are likely to be lower.
“There are some people who have already started to ship black seedless grapes, but we don't think they'll be ready until mid-December,” said Ashok Motiani of Freshtrop. “We expect the first shipments to go out in January.”
High temperatures have accelerated this year's season for both the Black and the white seedless, and, in addition to an early start, the season may end in the second week of April about two weeks sooner than usual.
“So far, the weather has been good,” said Ashok. “A water shortage has not affected the grapes because we can always bring in water, and less moisture has reduced disease pressure. If we get past November, the vines won't be affected even if it rains.” About 90 percent of the country's grape production comes from the Maharashtra region, and Ashok noted that they've told their growers to plant more colored seedless grapes because those varieties are very popular at the moment.
“The concentration should also be on eating quality,” said Ashok. “The physical look can be managed if grapes are cleaned, graded and sorted properly, but eating quality is most important. We want high sugar levels, up to 19 brix if possible.” Improvements will need to be made in order to manage reasonable returns given how competitive the table grape market is. Last year, short supplies made for attractive prices, and it's likely more growers will get into the export game this year because of that. With more volume and more exporters, returns will be harder to come by.
“We expect to export about 1,000 tons of black seedless grapes this season, and that's a 100 percent increase on the previous season,” said Ashok. “Supplies all over India are increasing fast, and we are expecting prices to fall. We expect to grow between 20 and 25 percent every year, and with increased supplies in all directions, we don't expect prices to be as high as in previous years.”
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