After a significant drop in the last decade, the area dedicated to table grape cultivation in Europe keeps dropping. This is due to the fact that growing is less profitable, production costs are increasing and there is a lot of competition. After a record 2013/14 campaign, a 16% drop is expected for 2014/15, for a total of 1.6 million tons.
In particular, considerable drops are expected in Italy (-20%), Greece (-8.6%), Spain (-8%), Bulgaria (-40.8%), France (-16%), Portugal (-8.6%) and Romania (-5.3%).
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Italy is the sixth table grape producer worldwide and the third exporter behind Chile and the US. This fruit is cultivated mainly in the South and, thanks to the great intra and extra-European demand, production is shifting towards the seedless varieties (Sugraone, Crimson, Thompson, Centennial and Sublime).
Lower production, slow consumption and the Russian ban meant prices dropped by 25-30% with respect to the previous season - from €1.30-1.50/kg to €0.70-1.20/kg.
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According to the latest data supplied by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, production should drop by 8% because of bad weather.
Currently there are 13,500 hectares of table grapes and the most productive areas are Murcia, Valencia and Andalusia. 70% of the total cultivated areas are in Murcia and Alicante. There are 50 varieties of table grapes in Spain, but the main ones are Aledo, Ideal, Muscatel, Dominga and Napoleon. Seedless grapes represent 30% of the total production and are mostly grown in Murcia.
Greece is the third main table grape producer in the EU after Italy and Spain. This year, the country should produce around 298,000 tons. The season started on the second week of August and should end early.
Currently, 17,000 hectares of table grapes are cultivated and the main producers are Corinth in the Peloponnese, Kavala in Macedonia and Candia in Crete. The most popular varieties are Sultana (Thompson seedless) and Victoria.
Despite the economic crisis, consumption of table grapes in the EU has been rather stable in the past few years at 2 million tons. From June and until the end of the commercial year, the produce is supplied internally - imports from third countries only represent 22.5%.
Italy consumes the most, followed by Germany, UK, Greece, Spain, France, Romania, Portugal, Czech Republic, Austria, Bulgaria and Slovakia. Despite the fact that Italian grapes with seeds are still widely appreciated, consumers are increasingly asking for seedless varieties.
Many European producers are therefore replacing traditional varieties with Sugraone, Crimson, Thompson, Regal, Summer Royal, Centennial, Sublime, etc. In addition, more attention has been paid to the late varieties, so the season can be extended for longer after the summer fruit campaign.
Source: gain.fas.usda.gov data