“Supplies of grapes are light, light and more light.” So says Ray England of DJ Forry of the current availability of California grapes.
As has been reported, the more limited supplies of grapes out of the state are Hurricane Hilary related--recently, the California Table Grape Commission reported that an estimated 25 million boxes of table grapes were lost because of the weather event. “Also, the varietal that serves the majority of volume on greens for the latter part of the deal, the Autumn King, was light anyways,” adds England.
However, economics are at play and growers are now mulling over whether it’s financially worth it to pick and pack grapes. England notes that California’s increasing minimum wage factors into it, particularly as growers make their way through a market where half the volume is lost.
Pricing picking up
In turn, FOBs are gaining strength. “I think there will be a continued rise in FOBs because supplies are tight. Once each grower moves to a new variety, there is an evaluation of the labor cost to get them off the vine; is it worth it or is it a total loss?” he says. That leaves the question around demand: will there be a price ceiling if consumers determine that grapes aren’t necessarily a must-buy for them? “Everything finds its place and I do think you’ll see a reaction at retail,” England says.
The question now is…what will the end of the California grape season look like as it transitions to imports? “I would bet on the California season ending early,” says England. “Typically you have a lot of volume through November with some grape varieties that get you through the end of the year domestically.”
In turn, that may put pressure on other countries shipping grapes into the U.S. market such as Brazil to start their season earlier than normal. “Once stone fruit is gone, grapes are the item generating revenue at retail. For importers, the pricing won’t be atypical for them or where the demand will be. Will there be an opportunity for them? Yes, for sure,” says England.