Namibia and South Africa are now shipping their table grapes to the European market, while the North American market is mainly supplied by Peru, Chile and California. At the beginning of the overseas season, Namibia and South Africa started remarkably late.
This is currently resulting in a more limited supply of grapes in Europe and therefore higher prices. This is expected to change in January, when more table grapes will arrive and prices should stabilize.
In North America, there seems to be a greater pressure on prices. In China there is a shifting demand from imported products to the domestic production.
Netherlands: Limited supply of grapes from overseas
The first South African and Namibian grapes are arriving in the Netherlands. “The grape market is looking reasonably good. The sale of trays for supermarkets in particular is going very well. Loose grape sales have been planned with a bit more caution, also by us, but they are also yielding good money,” says an importer.
“The Brazilian grapes are almost off the market and Peru doesn’t have too large volumes. To this we must add the delay in the start of the season in South Africa and Namibia, which has also contributed to the supply being limited.
“More is likely to hit the market next week, but the volumes won’t reach really high levels until week 53/1, when prices will probably also fall somewhat. Now they are at a stable level.”
“The prices for the white grapes range between 14 and 15.50 Euro, and the red ones are sold for 15 Euro. Last year, the prices were slightly higher, but this year the European grapes have been on the market a bit longer and there is also a little more supply from Brazil.
“All in all, I am not dissatisfied with the price level. There is also supply from Peru, but this one is more limited, partly due to strikes. The price of Peruvian Red Globe grapes oscillates between 18 and 20 Euro,” said the importer.
“The question is: what impact will the new coronavirus measures have on the grape market? If markets close, they will certainly take their toll.
“In terms of quality, everything’s going well. Furthermore, there are many new varieties on the rise. For example, the demand for varieties such as the Sweet Globe and Autumn Crisp is increasing considerably, especially from service supermarkets.”
Germany: Difficult start for overseas grape season
The overseas grape season got off to a difficult start this year. Normally, the first Namibian and South African batches hit the market in late November, but this time the first shipments arrived in week 50.
Therefore, the volumes available up to and during the holidays are expected to be modest. The starting position for overseas grapes, on the other hand, is very favorable.
“There is virtually no European production anymore and we are consequently expecting high demand from the retail sector,” said an importer.
In any case, the first volumes from Brazil and Peru have had to deal with competition from the Italian production, so prices at the start of the season were very disappointing. The quality of the overseas product is satisfactory across the board, says an importer.
Due to the weather conditions, a table grape shortage is expected in January, prior to the start of the season in India. There is even talk of a delay of around two weeks.
United Kingdom: First South African and Namibian grapes arrive
The Namibian and early South African grapes are now starting to arrive in the UK. The fruit has a very attractive appearance.
“The Namibian Flame has a good size and taste, just like the Early Sweet and Prime. Although the seasons have started between 7 and 10 days late, having a good, fresh supply of table grapes is a good start to the Christmas period,” said an importer.
The European supply has been expanded this year with grapes from Spain. The Greek supply experienced some difficulties, with some quality issues and a lower volume of white grapes in storage.
British retailers are promoting varieties like the Cotton Candy and Sable, but the range of other varieties is not wide or consistent enough to do this.
France: The demand exceeds the supply
The French are in between two campaigns. Peru and South Africa, for example, are starting their seasons. The volumes are small now, but the quality is fine. Spain, Portugal and Italy are about to finish.
As a result, the quality of, for example, the Spanish grapes is no longer so excellent, even though it will be possible to find some on the market until Christmas. The demand is quite high and exceeds the supply; therefore, prices are also quite high.
Spain: Season almost over
The table grape season is almost coming to an end in Spain, where sales are now mainly focused on the domestic New Year’s campaign, with white-seeded grape varieties such as the traditional Aledo and imported seedless varieties, mainly from Peru.
It should be noted that Spain is succeeding in expanding its campaign and that this has been especially noticeable this year with the seedless red varieties.
As for the Christmas and New Year’s Eve campaign, the pandemic is expected to bring changes to the fruit’s marketing.
A high share of the sales to the hospitality industry has been lost, so the focus will be on those restaurant chains and catering services that deliver New Year’s Eve dinners to homes.
Still, the sector hopes that retail sales will increase, because if people can’t eat out in restaurants or travel through Spain, as is often the case at this time of year, they will eat more and better at home.
The harvest in the main growing areas, such as Murcia and Alicante, has been smaller than last year. Last season there was a full production, so the yields had been expected to be lower this time.
Also, the abundant rains before the start of the season spoiled some of the fruit due to fungal problems. Both the demand and prices have generally been good throughout the season.
Last year’s disastrous results for seeded grapes resulted in the harvest no longer being sustainable for some smaller producers, who chose to abandon the fields due to a lack of generational replacement and low financial profitability.
The producers of seeded grapes closed the previous season with financial losses. Fortunately, this campaign has been much better.
In fact, there has been a slight increase in the demand for seeded grape varieties this year, despite global trends increasingly focusing on seedless grapes.
Italy: Shorter season for domestic grapes
Due to high and persistent humidity in Italy, the last grapes were no longer suitable for the fresh market. According to the Italian Table Grape Commission, only a few batches of Regal or Red Globe and Black Pearl grapes will enter the domestic market during the holiday season.
During the campaign, there has also been a lot of pressure on Italian grapes due to competition from Egypt, Greece and Spain at the start of the season and from overseas produce at the end of the campaign.
For example, a trader from Apulia says that his red grapes were under a lot of pressure due to competition from Egypt.
In mid-August, the situation for red and white grapes had improved due to retail promotions; however, the Greek competition entered the market in September.
Sicily is currently supplying its last Red Globe grapes to the market. In the first part of the season, the average prices went from 0.50 to 0.70 € / kg; in the second part, they were slightly higher, namely between 0.60 and 0.80 € / kg.
The organic production was ready in early November, but the seedless varieties do not cover the late market. Both the Mazzarrone area (which is actually a bit ahead) and the Canicattì area are gradually devoting small production shares to seedless grapes.
The market demand for them keeps increasing and growers must be prepared to take up the challenge while continuing to grow traditional varieties, such as Italian grapes.
South Africa and Namibia: Delay in the start of the season
The grape campaign started later this year. Namibia is currently in the peak season, while the Western Cape has only just started. There was a delay of around ten days in the Olifants River valley.
At the same time, a week’s delay is expected in the Berg River and Hex River regions. The delay leaves South African and Namibian growers with a smaller window in the pre-Christmas market in Europe.
Some have said that, due to the changes in people’s travelling and vacation plans this year, prices might continue better after Christmas. The quality and size of the fruit are considered exceptional this year.
Around this time of the year, the main logistics hub in the region, the port of Cape Town, is hindered by the wind, which sometimes prevents ships from entering or leaving the harbor.
In the last 10-20 days, the situation has actually not been too bad, but the prospect is that the port will be forced to stop its activities again in the coming week due to strong winds.
Besides the port situation, there have also been some tensions around the border crossing between Namibia and South Africa due to the coronavirus.
The border has been occasionally closed to prevent spreading, but both governments have made agreements to guarantee a good flow of Namibian grapes to the South African ports.
By the end of week 48, South Africa had exported 1.5 million boxes (4.5 kg). This is a lot less than last year (4.4 million boxes around the same period) and significantly less (but with smaller margins) than two years before.
Most exports were intended for the European market (1 million boxes), followed by the UK and the Middle East.
India: First grapes on the market; larger volumes from January
The Indian grape season is just starting, with smaller volumes for the time being. Larger volumes will be harvested from January. For one exporter, most of these grapes will go to the European market.
The on-going farmers’ protests in India are having no impact on the current season, as the sales channels used by grape growers do not use the government’s traditional market platform.
The main region for Indian grapes, Nashik, will have grapes ready to be harvested from week 2. We expect there will be enough grapes to harvest until week 15.
In October there was persistent rain, forcing growers to postpone the pruning process. As a result, the volume available in January will be smaller than usual, and there will be more than usual in February.
Due to the limited volume available for export in January, the prices for Indian grapes are expected to be on the higher side at the start of the season. In February and March, however, many grapes will be available for export and prices will be under pressure.
United States: Supply of domestic and import grapes
The grape supply is quite strong, as both domestic supplies from California and imports are available. The domestic harvest is comparable to that of last year.
California is currently working on some of its late season varieties, such as the Crimson, Autumn Royal, Red Globe, Allison and Sweet Celebration.
The demand is steady at the moment, according to many traders. Much is currently going to retailers due to the coronavirus.
Variety development is also helping boost the marketing of grapes by improving the eating quality and consistency. Prices have remained stable and comparable to those of the previous season.
Peru: Large volume of grapes heading for the US puts pressure on prices
In the US, the Peruvian import grape season has already started. The supply is expected to be 20% greater. At the start of the campaign, the Peruvian grapes go to other markets, but from November, the majority of the batches are shipped to the US.
“The production was delayed in some parts of Peru due to the cold weather and the Brix was not at the right level. But now the volumes are good, and so is the quality of the Peruvian grapes,” said a Florida importer.
In Peru, the supply is currently shifting to the south of the country. “Year after year, Peru tries to extend the campaign. Normally we continue until early March, depending on the demand. But after that, the competition from Chile is stronger,” says the importer, who reports that Chile may start supplying earlier this year.
The demand is not as favorable on the East Coast, and the grapes that are now arriving on the market don’t help in the transition. This is putting prices under pressure.
China: Demand shifts from imports to local products
The table grape yield for the 2020-2021 season is estimated at 11 million tons, slightly greater than in the previous season. The Shine Muscat and Xiahei are the two most popular varieties, and their production is increasing.
This is especially the case for the Shine Muscat, whose production area has reached 6.6 million hectares, with a yield that accounts for almost 10% of the total market share.
The price differs greatly per variety. Shine Muscat prices were very high a few years ago, but with the increase in the production, the price has been dropping year after year. This year, the average price of the Shine Muscat amounts to around 20-40 RMB / kg; 50% less than last year.
During the pandemic, there have been problems with the logistics. The imported grape volume is 6% smaller than last year. In the meantime, the quality of the local production has improved considerably this year.
The demand is therefore shifting from imported fruit to local products. Chile, Australia and Peru are the largest players in the Chinese table grape market.
Chinese table grapes, in turn, mainly go to the Southeast Asian market. These are expected to achieve a 17% growth in the next season.
Australia: Concerns about cutbacks and restrictions due to the coronavirus
Some Northern and Western growers in Australia are either already harvesting for the 2020/21 season or are about to begin, and seasonal forecasts remain positive, despite the challenges that fresh produce growers across the country are facing.
There are concerns about a labor shortage due to the coronavirus, because of the border restrictions, as well as about the higher cost of freight to international markets. In 2018/19, Australia produced 208,276 tons, 70% of which went to export markets.
However, the sector is hoping that recent funding from the federal government will help. The Australian Table Grape Association received more than 600,000 AUD this month for two projects aimed at improving market access for its growers, updating the capacity of the industry’s export accreditation system and creating mobile MRL apps.
In 2018/19, Australia exported 146,093 tons of table grapes worth more than AUD 555 million. The Australian season runs from November to May.