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Maura Maxwell



Chilean grape glut eats into returns

The early start to the Chilean campaign has left European and US markets awash with table grapes

Chilean grape glut eats into returns

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A glut of South American table grapes is making for challenging conditions on global markets.

Indian exporters have been forced to reduce shipments to Europe – their biggest export market – due to heavy arrivals from Chile.

Gagandada Khapre of the All India Grape Exporters Association said overcrowding has caused prices to plummet and exporters had cut back on their programmes as they were currently making barely R40-45 per kg on shipments.

“Indian shipments have not stopped completely. However, around 100 containers are being sent out every day against the expected target of 125 containers,” he said.

However, Khapre anticipates that the situation will improve from 20 March, once the Chilean season comes to and end.

In the US meanwhile, a recent surge in arrivals from Chile and Peru combined with the abundant domestic harvest is putting considerable pressure on prices.

Mark Greenberg, CEO of Capespan North America, said last week that East Coast coldstores were running at full capacity due to a surge in volumes of grapes of varying condition and maturity, as well as stonefruit and pears.

By the end of week 8m, Chile had shipped 16.6m cartons to the US East Coast, a 78 per cent increase on the year-earlier period, with Flame shipments up 71 per cent and Crimson volumes almost quadrupling compared to last season.

Sendings of white seedless varieties to the end of February were up 88 per cent – although this was due to the early start to the season rather than an overall increase in production.

According to Greenberg, hopes that prices would rally following a fall in arrivals from mid-February caused by the early end to Chilean Flame production had failed to materialise. Instead, the market is “stuck” and “unable to move forward” he said.

The Port of Wilmington warned customers last week that its stocks were currently at more 14,000 pallets, leaving it unable to handle new arrivals.

In spite of the glut, retailers have not reduced prices enough to stimulate demand, and sales have failed to pick up pace, Greenberg noted. He warned that the longer the situation goes on, the more the condition of stored grapes will deteriorate.

He predicted that the market would strengthen as Flame volumes decrease but warned that it could take weeks for prices to recover.

Producers in Atacama and Coquimbo are warning that they face significantly lower returns this season due to the triple whammy of an early Chilean harvest, the bumper US crop and stronger competition from Peru.

“This is worse than the drought,” Atacama producer Silvia Jofré told Mundo Marítimo. “They’re practically throwing away our grapes in the US. Our production costs are around US$10 and the fruit is selling for US$2-4, so we’re all going to end up out of pocket, especially small producers.”


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