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California: First grapes from the Central Valley being harvested

The first red and black seedless grapes are being harvested in the San Joaquin Valley, heralding the start of the main California table grape season. There are still plenty of Mexican grapes in the market, with actual production far exceeding earlier predictions. The Mexican crop has now produced more than 22 million boxes of grapes, and shippers are busy trying to clear the backlog.

"As Arvin, California growers start packing initial volumes of Flame Seedless, the process of transitioning to the central San Joaquin valley has already begun," noted Ira Greenstein of Direct Source Marketing. "Marketers in Mexico continue to offer aggressive FOB’s as cold storages in Nogales are still bursting at the seams with volumes of red, green and black seedless. For the second consecutive year, overall Mexican volumes have far exceeded demand and expectations are to see the majority of the crop sold at well below break-even levels."

Greenstein added that customers are now split between two markets, with California grapes offering better quality and condition while commanding a higher premium.

Red seedless prices climb
As good volumes of red seedless grapes from California enter the market, suppliers say that overall quality is very good. Prices are increasing on the back of strong export demand from Europe and Asia, with those markets willing to pay a premium for quality fruit. "Export pricing ranges from $20.95-$24.95 FOB," Greenstein observed. "Domestic pricing is considerably lower ranging from $15.95-16.95 on medium/large, $17.95-$18.95 on large and $18.95-$20.95 on premium x-large fruit."

On the other end of the scale is the large amount of Mexican red seedless grapes that needs to be moved. Overall quality is declining and, with prices between $10.95-12.95 for a good box of Flames, shippers are concerned that remaining fruit might either be sold at below cost, or not even sold at all. However, Greenstein did note that proprietary varieties are performing slightly better.

"Some retailers continue to show a preference for proprietary varieties like Sweet Celebrations and overall pricing is hanging-in ranging from $12.95-$16.95 with the mostly market at $14.95 for good quality fruit," he said. "Look for most retailers to make the complete transition to California red seedless by the end of the week. We will see very good promotional opportunities on California fruit through the balance of the month."

Condition of green seedless remains good
The quality and condition of green seedless grapes from Mexico, including varieties like Sugraone, is reported to be good. There is a better chance for these to meet arrival specifications, but marketers are keeping prices at levels that will ensure the remaining balance of green seedless will move swiftly through the market. Mexico still has some time before green seedless grapes build volume out of California's Central Valley, with solid volume not expected for another 10 - 14 days.

"Marketers are keeping their foot on the gas and will continue to offer extremely aggressive FOB’s through the duration of the season," Greenstein shared. "Mexican Sugraone pricing currently ranges from $10.95-$12.95 with size and quality being the determining factors. Proprietary varieties like Sweet Globes are being quoted from $14.95-$18.95 with the mostly market at $16.95 for premium quality fruit. Look for this market to remain at current levels until supplies from Arvin start entering the market by the middle of the month."

California also starting on black seedless
Growers in the Central Valley have also begun harvesting black seedless grapes. The situation for remaining black seedless from Mexico mirrors that of the red, with good volumes of varieties such as Summer Royals, although declining quality and prices are creating a sense of urgency to move this fruit.

"Pricing on Mexican supplies range from $8.95-$12.95 for fruit that will meet retail specifications," Greenstein concluded. "Growers and shippers have already started harvesting preliminary volumes of Summer Royals in Arvin and overall quality and condition is very good. Pricing on California supplies currently ranges from $16.95-$18.95 with the mostly market at $18.95."

For more information:
Ira Greenstein
Direct Source Marketing
Ph: +1 (914) 241-4434
[email protected]