Domestic and export sales increase on recent seasons despite a weather-affected start

Australian table grapes on sale in the Philippines

Australian table grapes on sale in the Philippines

The Australian table grape season has concluded on a positive note with domestic and export sales for 2023 making a marked recovery on the previous two years.

Table grape export volumes increased by 20,000 tonnes to more than 130,000 tonnes – worth more than A$570m – lower than the industry’s pre-Covid peak, but an improvement on the past two seasons.

This result was achieved despite climatic events affecting producers in several growing regions and impacting optimal seasonal timing. Wet and mild weather early in the production year instigated several issues, including a 3–4-week delay in many growing areas and higher than usual pest and disease concerns.

Australian Table Grape Association chief executive Jeff Scott said producers had endured several tests this season, but overall finished positively.

“In November and December, weather events brought rain, hail and flooding to Sunraysia and Queensland,” Scott said.

“Growers were tested and had to be very strategic with their pest and disease management – accessing their vines when they could to apply appropriate treatments. Despite there being a higher than usual risk of downy mildew and powdery mildew from the rain events, table grape producers remained relatively unscathed.” 

Scott said although quality wasn’t affected by the weather events, grapes took longer to colour and ripen.

“While the early season fruit was absorbed by the domestic market, many of the mid- and late-season varieties reached maturity at the same time and were harvested at once,” Scott noted.

This overabundance of fruit led to a glut in some markets, however, others recovered well from two low years.

China exports lifted to around 40 per cent – from 28 per cent last year – Indonesia received more than 18 per cent of export product, and Vietnam held strong at 10 per cent.

Producers and exporters are hopeful for a more stable production year, with climatic conditions expected to return to normal and improved market access on the agenda in several countries.

“We’re working with the federal government and overseas governments to improve market access in Thailand and the Philippines,” Scott said.

“We’re also hopeful for full varietal access in Japan, which currently only accepts two varieties, and changes to the protocol in the US, which would open up a lot of avenues for exports.”