Market Update For Table Grapes

Week of November 22 – November 28

This is a very interesting time for the table grape industry. There are so many variables in-play that can significantly impact the availability of quality fruit and spot market FOB’s. Firstly, we look at the current situation in California, where there are more than 10 million total cartons currently in cold storages. The volumes are more heavily skewed towards green seedless, with red seedless still coming-up a bit short. We’ve started to see heavy volumes of California fruit sent south to Mexico, which tell us that growers are concerned that their fruit does not have the legs for the US market. We have already seen an uptick in retail rejections, and inspectors on the west coast are having to work harder to find quality fruit to ship. The east coast has started to see early volumes of imported fruit from both Peru and Brazil.  Importers are holding pricing firm as they know they have a huge freight advantage, with California trucking rates ranging from $10,000 to $12,000 to come all the way east. Once California fruit begins to condition-out, we will see east coast retailer be the first to make the switch to imports. The real challenge will come once retailers west of the Mississippi look to transition. Major ocean freight companies have already reduced schedules to the west coast due to the severe congestion at the Port of Long Beach. This will put added pressure on east coast supplies. Importers with contracts on the west will be forced to load fruit off the east and pay historically high freight rates back to California. With so many moving parts, the upcoming import season looks to be roller coaster ride – so buckle up.

Red Seedless

With more than 6 weeks left until the New Year, it’s becoming clearer that California supplies of red seedless will not be sufficient to take the industry all the way through. Even with more than 4 million cartons currently in cold storages, inspectors are finding it increasingly difficult to find quality fruit. With most early South American imports focused on green seedless, we can expect there to be strong demand for imported red grapes in December. We will see fruit from both Brazil and Peru, with most imported reds coming from the northern region of Peru. Currently spot market FOB’s range from $18.95-$24.95 on California supplies with size and condition being the determining factors. We will start to see imported red grapes trickle into the market on the east coast, with importers already looking to sell fruit for $30 plus. Expect to see imports range from $28-$34 in December with size and variety creating the spread.

Green Seedless

Looking at the numbers of green seedless currently in cold storages doesn’t tell the whole story. Although there seems to be enough fruit to carry the industry through to the end of the year, indicators are pointing at fruit conditioning-out before marketers can sell out. We have already started to see imported green seedless from Brazil and Peru hit the east coast, and there is more fruit currently on water. There doesn’t seem to be the same concern about fruit coming-up short.  Like red grapes, and should see enough imported fruit from all growing regions to carry us through to a smooth transition in January. Currently, California Autumn Kings range from $18.95-$22.95 with the mostly market at $20.95 FOB. Marketers have plans to take prices higher, but they will need to see better demand for that to happen. Imports on the east range from $24 to as high as $32 depending on size and variety.

Black Seedless

With good volumes of black seedless still on-hand and only limited demand,  marketers are offering aggressive spot market pricing to move through remaining volumes.  Overall quality has been holding, but we could start to see condition breakdown on some lots heading into December.  Autumn Royals are selling between $16.95-$20.95 with the mostly market at $18.95. There will be more volumes of black seedless from Peru this year, and importers should be aware of how challenging it has been for California to find profitable programs for their fruit.