In general the grape market is short, or is going to be very soon. California is short and according to people in the trade, Europe is short and will finish early. Brazil are shipping and Peruvian grapes are around, if not in large numbers yet. The last of the Greek whites are hanging about and even reds this year are forecast to end early.
"Peru is very short, we have our own farms there so we know this," explains Rob Cullum from import company Pacific Produce. "The market has not reacted yet, and it is strange that the demand this time last year was higher. It could be that even if Europe is ending early the quality is still good, possibly Brazil has better quality too. The Grape market can change very fast so in a week we can see dramatic changes. It is always like this when changing between supply hemispheres.
It is the 3rd week of grape export from Peru and size as well as volumes are down. Rob said that is is not a disaster as the Peruvian normal sizes are very large, such as double jumbo or triple jumbo. This year there won't see so much of the super premium ones.
He goes on to say that once the programs are filled there won’t be much left over.
"If you look at the Peruvian exports, compared to last year almost nothing has left yet. Only three exporters have started shipping. Those who have grapes later in the season will certainly send them to the US market as it will bring them better returns. All these issues have been caused by El Nino, first we had a drought, then floods. Red Globe will be most affected, there are some growers who have no harvest at all, but for seedless it will be on average 50% down."
Just a month ago people were talking about a 30% reduction, but as each grower comes to harvest they are seeing that the volumes are lower.
"Low volumes means higher prices, but the market can only absorb so much of a price rise, price has a limit and no matter what the price ends up at it is going to be a bad year for farmers because you can't cover this amount of loss of yield."
The parent company La Calera, also produce in Ica in the south, but that fruit is all destined for the US and Asian markets, none is sent to Europe as it would coincide with the South African harvest and the currency rates mean they can't compete, but Peru can send to markets which South Africa can't, so it balances out.
The blueberry season has been underway in Peru for a while already and it will continue through to February. The weather does not seem to have affected the blueberry crop as it has other fruit, this year the Peruvian imports of blueberries has overlapped UK domestic production more than normal.
"Last year European production finished early with a few quality problems," said Rob. "Normally Peru would send the first shipments to Asia, the US then the EU, but because of the demand from Europe last year we ended up flying a lot in to catch up with the vessels to meet the demand. This was not the case this year, there was no need for air freight. There is a big mix on the market just now, you see blueberries from all over Europe on the shelves as well as Argentinian, Peruvian, South African and there even blueberries from Zimbabwe. As well as many sources there are so many different varieties on the shelves that it is starting to get confusing for consumers.
In the UK they put the variety on the punnet and people will try to follow a variety they like, but this has its pros and cons: as one variety will work well in one growing region but won't in another. it also sometimes causes a false inflation in price for one variety.
"You see this happening with grapes as well, for each red, white and black category there is a specification and the right fruit will fill them, but now you have all of these varieties of grapes coming. For example Sable, a black grape from Sun World has managed to get its own space and special packing, same as varieties like the Cotton Candy."
According to Rob the problem with blueberries is that there are so many varieties coming out and they are very variable in size, sugar levels and texture, making it hard for consumers. Some will eventually find their way into a retailer's top tier of branded blueberries and people are willing to pay for consistency.
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