U.S.: ‘Steady’ season for California grapes, says Terra Exports

1 Sep , 2017 www.freshfruitportal.com
A combination of ‘outstanding’ quality, nationwide promotions and good export demand are keeping California table grape supplies in check, according to a new representative of Terra Exports’ grape division.

The Nevada-headquartered company recently hired industry veteran Joe Cardenas to help boost its table grape business and to take the lead on its West Coast sales.

He told Fresh Fruit Portal the total California table grape crop was estimated to end up at around 111 million 19-pound boxes compared to 108 million boxes last year.

“The season’s been very steady. The quality and the conditions are outstanding right now,” Cardenas said.

“The promotions nationwide coupled with the export demands have really kept supplies in check.”

He said the San Joaquin Valley had been in the midst of a heatwave last week with temperatures frequently exceeding 100ºF, limiting the amount of time workers could be out in the fields for safety reasons.

In some cases, the heat had caused some challenges related to achieving good color, he added.

Terra Exports sources grapes from various producing countries including the U.S., Peru, Chile, and Mexico. The majority of grapes the company sources in the U.S. are exported with the rest going to its domestic program.
Cardenas also said average prices per box had been around the US$20-24 dollar range, which is in line with previous years.

“From talking to the growers, everything seems to be on schedule. They plan to finish by around November, which is around when Peru will start, and then our Chilean program will probably begin around January,” he said.

Peru and Chile set for greater overlap

Cardenas said the current impression from Peru was that volumes will be a little bit shorter this year.

While Terra Exports has usually shipped Peruvian grapes to the East Coast due to the higher prices, this season it is going to start to bring some small volumes to the West Coast. For Chile, the situation is the other way round.

“The East Coast seems to pay better for Peruvian grapes than the West Coast, so we tend to always supply to East Coast as they’re willing to pay for the box. On the West Coast, the majority of people just want a good deal on a decent grape,” Cardenas said.

“We are basically knocking on doors at the moment, and everybody’s starting to move into the Peruvian grapes, so we’re going to start bringing in small volumes to the West Coast.

“Then with the Chilean program, which is normally on the West Coast, this year we’re going to take some to the East Coast.”

He said this was mainly to be able to provide more options to customers.

The representative also believed the Chilean and Peruvian grape deals would increasingly overlap in the future, and he said Chile may need to step up its game in order to remain competitive.

“There’s going to come a time and place where you receive Chilean and Peruvian grapes at the same time, and it’s just going to be up to our customer base, what they want to buy,” he said.

Namibian grapes on the horizon

Cardenas also mentioned Terra Exports was also looking at sourcing Namibian grapes for the first time this year. He said they would likely be shipped via South African exporters.

“That I know of I don’t see anybody that’s brought any to the U.S. But since they’re allowed in we’re working on that right now to hopefully bring some in this year,” he said.

“We’re really hoping it happens, to give people something different. We have specialty stores that always like something new.”