Australian table grape exporters are contending with one of their latest starts to a season on record.
A cold and wet Spring across key growing regions, compounded by a late start to summer, has seen vines flower unevenly and mature much later than previous seasons.
“We’ve probably been three weeks – some growers will even say four weeks –behind where we were last year,” Ryan Smith of Valleyfresh Global told Asiafruit. “We’ve been waiting for the sugar in the Thompsons and colour in Crimsons and Red Globes.”
While some small volumes of early season varieties were sent over late January and February, full scale programmes of mainstay varieties are still yet to ramp up.
Industry veteran David Minnis of 888 Exports said he couldn’t recall a season this late before.
“It’s early March and we’ve only really been sending grapes over the last two weeks, and even those volumes aren’t huge.”
However, the late start seemingly hasn’t dented the export outlook for key Asian markets, including China, Japan and South East Asia. With South African exporters capitalising on a relatively unoccupied window early in the season, and South American fruit selling strongly through late February and early March, Australia looks well positioned to make a late run over April and May.
“Chile was early this year and has probably just gone over its peak,” Smith said. “There will be plenty of opportunity over the middle to latter half of the season. As long as the weather holds up and we don’t have early frosts or rain there will still be plenty of fruit there in late April and May.”