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Exceptional season for Mediterranean countries


The heat and dry weather that have hit large parts of Europe in recent weeks seem to have had a positive impact on this year's grape harvest. Growers in Mediterranean countries are happy about the fruit's quality this season, even though the harvest started later in some countries. The downside is that there is more competition in the international market. This is an overview of the situation in Europe, but also a look back and ahead to the season in Latin America.

Italy: Exceptional season and a lot of competition
It is a special season for Italian grape growers. Not only the weather, but also the price level is exceptional. In Eastern Europe, some retailers are paying low prices due to the competition from Greece. The supply from Turkey and Spain will only make the market tougher. "In Greece, the prices for the Victoria are very competitive and Turkey will soon arrive with an exceptional harvest," says a trader. "Turkey has already started with the first batches of Sultana grapes, seedless and very sweet." Spanish seedless grapes are also about to arrive. Until two weeks ago, Spain was importing grapes from Apulia because the Spanish season was delayed. According to the trader, the last part of the white Victoria season can still be profitable.

Apulia: early start of season
The season in this region started 15 to 20 days earlier, with a good Brix. At the moment, there are Victoria (white with seeds) and Black Magic (blue with seeds) grapes available. "Soon we will start with the blue Palieri and the first Red Globe are already on the market. We have been running ahead the entire season," says a trader. The grapes are exported to destinations such as Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. According to the trader, competition on the various markets is fierce, especially among Italian traders, and the Russian market is still missed. The Middle East is absorbing some of the volumes previously shipped to Russia, but those markets are still unstable.

The seedless varieties Sugraone, Sweet Sunshine and Cotton Candy are also available. The red Sweet Celebration® will also arrive soon. The harvest of the Cotton Candy started in week 31. The first Crimson were harvested in Taranto on 27 July.

Sicily: more demand from the Middle East and Africa
According to a trader on the island, the results this season are in line with those of last year. In the first part of the season, in June, the Victoria and Black Magic were harvested with a yield of 30 tonnes per hectare. The quality of the greenhouse production was good, but the Brix was not too high due to the temperature and rains in June. As a result, the sugar development in the grapes was delayed.

Besides the domestic market, there is a lot of interest for the grapes from the Arab countries. Every year, more is shipped to these markets. This applies to both the Victoria and the Black Magic. Also, white and blue seedless grapes are exported to, among others, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Canada, the US and Sri Lanka are also mentioned as interesting markets. Furthermore, the demand from Africa is also on the rise. "For example, Nigeria and Cameroon are starting to ask about our grapes," says a trader. Of course, the European market is also included in the list of export markets. France, Belgium, Switzerland or Austria are the most frequently mentioned.

For the organic grapes, the early varieties season is coming to an end, while the harvest in the greenhouses already finished in early July. "We have already harvested 80% of the seedless grapes, both white and blue," says a bio grower. The blue with seeds grape campaign has already ended. Production is 15% higher this year and the price is 5% above last year's level. It is mainly in the European countries where there is a higher demand for organic grapes.

Spain: Slow start, but good season
In the Vinalopo valley, the harvest of the Victoria grapes has already started. This is a white variety with seeds. Moreover, the harvest of the seedless grapes Arra11 and Arra 29, respectively a red and a white variety, has also kicked off. The prospects for the season are positive, says a grower. The company's acreage has been expanded and a good quality production is expected. The season was delayed because the summer started late.

France: Nice season with a little delay
The French table grape season has just started. A trader talks about his experiences to date. "It promises to be a great season." Market transactions are smooth and we are able to supply a high quality product. The Muscat grapes stand out the most."

The severe heat that has hit Europe in recent weeks caused some small delays in the production process. "Some cold nights are still needed for the production to increase; hopefully, they will come soon. Storms have been forecast and we'd like to harvest before they can damage the grapes."

Germany: Surplus stone fruit has impact on grape market
The demand for grapes has remained generally low in the German wholesale markets in recent days. According to the traders, this is in all likelihood due to the large supply of stone and soft fruit, for which there are still large surpluses. Italian grapes dominate wholesale trade across the board, mainly the Festival Seedless and the Victoria varieties. Turkish Sultana grapes are also becoming increasingly popular and, because of their good price-quality balance in various wholesale markets, they are becoming an increasingly interesting alternative to the Italian product. The traders mention the Italian Victoria grapes as an example, as there are big price differences due to the notable contrast in terms of quality and fruit size.

Traders also mention a steady rise of less common varieties, including the Summer Royal, Doria Seedless and Scarlet Dew. There are also some Greek and Spanish grape varieties, as well as French ones; however, it is stressed that these have a limited market share.

The Netherlands: Season with ups and downs
The grape season has had some ups and downs this year. Quality problems after the rains marked the Chilean season, with the Chilean Crimson season also clashing with the end of the South African campaign. Due to the dry weather, much fewer grapes were expected to arrive in Europe, but this was actually far from the truth. The Egyptian season has gone a lot better. Meanwhile, the supply from Italy and Greece has ensured the necessary market pressure. The overseas grape season will start in September with the first Brazilian grapes.

Peru expects greater harvest
The first estimates point to exports oscillating between the 43 million and 45 million boxes (8.2 kg) in the 2018/2019 season. That campaign is starting at the end of the month. Last year, the country shipped 33 million boxes. By restoring production in the north, exports could grow. Last year, this region suffered the consequences of El Niño. "I expect a major revival in production in Piura and Ica," says a trader. This revival has also been possible thanks to the favourable weather conditions. For the 2018/2019 campaign, Ica expects to harvest about 21 million boxes. A similar volume is expected in Piura. Last season, Ica exported 19 million boxes and Piura 9 million boxes. A season earlier (2016/2017), exports amounted to 17 million boxes for Ica and 15 million boxes for Piura. For the coming season, Peru may add Vietnam and Malaysia to the list of export markets.

Mexico: Smaller grape harvest
Growers in Sonora will fill 19 million boxes with grapes, which are marketed both inside and outside Mexico. The State has a total of about 14,000 hectares devoted to the crop in the areas of Hermosillo, San Miguel de Horcasitas, Caborca ​​and Cajeme. A total of about 15.5 million boxes are exported, and the remaining 3.5 million boxes are distributed on the domestic market. This season, the production is said to have fallen by 35% during the harvest campaign in May and June due to the weather conditions. The smaller volume, however, had a positive impact on the price. The grapes find their way to some 30 countries. The main export markets are Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and some countries in Latin America, such as Nicaragua, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Growers in Sonora are having to deal with theft. According to the trade association, some 2,000 boxes have been stolen from various growers in the province. This results in losses amounting to 2 million dollars. The theft is reported to the police. Criminals have not only stolen grapes, but also shrimps and nuts. Those products often find their way to street vendors in the city, who sell them illegally.

Chile focuses on exports to Asia
In week 25, towards the end of the Chilean export season, exports stood at 731,851 tonnes, which was only a few hundred tonnes below the volume achieved a year earlier. That was a good sign, as the rain took a toll on the harvest of the late varieties in central southern Chile. Not a lot changed when it comes to exports, even though there was a notable drop in the volumes shipped to the US, and more was exported to Asia.

Exports mostly consist of Red Seedless (62%), White Seedless (20%) and Black Seedless (15%) grapes. The main destinations are the US (74%), China/Hong Kong (8%), the UK (5%), South Korea (2.4%) and Japan (1.8%).

US: Supply of bio-grapes back to normal
After a slow start of the organic grape season, the supply is now back to normal. "I do not expect the situation to change; for the time being, it will stay this way," says a satisfied trader. The late start is due to the unusual weather this spring. "We had a very cool spring that lasted until mid-June," he continues. Thereafter, however, the mercury quickly rose and a hot summer followed. The demand for the grapes is stable. "The market has been a bit slower for the red ones, but good for the white ones. The demand is not on par with the supply, but it is still stable and good," says a trader. The price is at a comparable level with last year's.

China: Greater focus on exports
The season started around June. From that moment on, the supply of grapes on the market started growing slowly. There are still a lot of grapes available on the Chinese market. Thanks to the diversification in terms of varieties and harvest seasons, Chinese grapes are available for a long period. The season is expected to end in November. The most cultivated grape is the Red Globe.

The growing conditions are good. The yield is greater than last year's thanks to the favourable weather. Most of the harvest is sold on the domestic market, with only a small part intended for export. Exporting is not easy because of the shelf life of the grapes. Nevertheless, interest in exports is growing.

Australia: China's most important customer
Grapes are harvested between November and May. Victoria is the most important growing area. The season that ended a few months ago was excellent, according to the growers. The latest figures from Hort Innovation show that up to June 2017, 171,637 tonnes worth 534.4 million dollars were harvested. Of those, 106,666 tonnes were exported. China is the fruit's most important buyer. Although some growers shipped the entire harvest to that market, others are looking for opportunities in, for example, Japan. Grapes are also imported, especially from the US.