El Niño stopped Peru’s export growth in its tracks in 2023/24, but it wasn’t all bad news

El Niño led to the second-biggest fall ever in Peruvian table grape exports in 2023/24. According to industry association Provid, exports are on course to contract by more than 10 per cent on last season’s total of 71.4m (8.2kg) cartons. The results put an end to seven years of expansion that pushed Peru to the top of the export table last year, with a 16 per cent share of the global market.

Peruvian grapes2

Looking back on a campaign it would rather forget, Provid says it was clear from last November that the weather phenomenon would have a major impact on the crop. Writing in the February edition of industry publication Provid Digital, the association noted: “Excessive heavy rains and high temperatures were the main reason for the loss of productivity, particularly in the north of the country. This shortened the productive process of the crop, reduced cycles and meant the fruit ready for harvesting earlier, all of which finally had an impact on returns”.

The most affected part of the country was the north, especially Piura and Lambayeque – which together account for almost 40 per cent of Peru’s shipment total. Volumes from these two regions at week 4 were down 31 per cent compared with the same time last year. By contrast in the south, shipments were up 82 per cent in the same time period. This was due both to the campaign being around 20 days ahead of usual and to the fact that last year roads in Ica were blocked due to the political unrest, hampering harvesting and exports.

The fall in production is not the other challenge growers have faced this season. The excessive humidity exacerbated the presence of pests, fungi and bacteria, and this had a detrimental impact on fruit quality.

In terms of markets, the US led the field, taking around 47 per cent of shipments, followed by the Netherlands on 12 per cent and China and Mexico each on 8 per cent. In all, Peruvian grapes were shipped to more than 50 markets worldwide.

It was not all bad news, however. One of the bright spots of the past season has been the start of shipments to Japan following the opening of this market. Despite the weather challenges, Provid says this season’s shipments were well received, paving the way for increased volumes in the future.

“To week 52 of 2023 more than 2,200 tonnes of grapes had been sent to Japan, equivalent to 273,000 (8.2kg) cartons, and this volume is expected to be even bigger by the end of the season,” the association said.