The market was virtually empty when the first Sicilian grapes arrived at Zoutewelle in the Netherlands two weeks ago. "The overseas season, including that of seedless grapes, was a done deal. Egypt had yet to start, so those Italian grapes arrived at just the right time," Bertus Schipper says.
"Price-wise, we started unusually high, at around €4.80/kg. That has since dropped to a more normal level. The Italian grapes have good availability, in line with previous seasons. And although there are now somewhat more Egyptian grapes on the market, you don't fill an empty market overnight. Plus, market alternatives are limited. Due to weather conditions in Spain, there's not much stone fruit, so other items are sought after, and prices remain fairly high."
Zoutewelle's current grape supply consists of Sicilian Victoria and Black Magic grapes. "For now, the volume will plod along," Bertus expects. Later this month, the first supply from Puglia should also arrive, which the importer sells under its Lino brand. "Depending on the quality, we could be ahead with Italian grapes for the next six months. We, at least, reached early December in other years."
In recent years, there have been numerous developments in the grape market - especially the seedless segment - with varieties with distinctive flavors, sizes, and colors. "Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees. Recently, local wholesalers and supermarkets have switched almost entirely to seedless grapes. But we still have more seeded than seedless grapes from Italy. Ethnic customers, in particular, still prefer grapes with seeds," Bertus concludes.