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Tastyfrutti expects strong April for Chilean grapes

As Chilean grape supplies enter their traditional seasonal decline in April, the market price could spike as both California and Mexico’s spring production are expected to be later than last year.

At least that is the view of Andreas Economou, chief operating officer of Tastyfrutti International Inc. in Philadelphia, who has been bringing Chilean grapes to the U.S. market for more than three decades. The longtime veteran told The Produce News on Monday, March 21, that the Chilean deal has been a tale of two stories this year. He said the deal got off to a slow start as it was early and red and green grapes bunched up against the production from Peru leading to oversupply and low market prices.

“Now we are seeing much better movement and better pricing,” he noted on the first day of spring.

IMG 7259This year’s stone fruit crop from Chile is well underway with heavy supplies of peaches, plums and nectarines.As the calendar turns to April, he said the red Crimson variety and the green Thompson Seedless grape will dominate Chilean shipments to the United States. As he was speaking, he noted that the red grape market was around $20 per lug while the Thompson price was a bit higher in the mid-$20s range. “By mid-April, Thompsons will be scarce and the price will get even better. I expect it will be in the $30s and may even go higher. We are going to see a very good April.”

While supplies of red grapes might normally be sufficient to fill that demand, Economou said the scarcity of green grapes will eventually lead to higher prices for the red grapes as well. He reasoned that consumers will switch to reds when green prices start to escalate, which will have the snowball effect of increasing demand for reds and driving that price up as well.

Tastyfrutti, which also has a long standing in the Coachella Valley grape deal, is bracing for a slower start to that deal. Economou said that while it is still too early to set the California start date in stone, early indications are that the red grapes will not get started until May 10, two weeks later than last season. Mexico is also running behind last year and is not expected to have any production until the first week of May.

“The end of April is going to see very high prices,” said Economou. “What we need to guard against is that Chile doesn’t send a lot of ‘garbage’” to the U.S. market.

He said the high prices may entice some growers to “clean up their vineyards” and put everything in the box that they can get their hands on. That’s not good for anyone, he said. “They have to learn that less is more. That’s what I am telling everyone,” he added, invoking the well-chronicled economic theory of supply and demand. If only good quality is shipped, demand will exceed supply and the market price will continue to climb.

Touching on the Chilean stone fruit market, Economou said peach and nectarine shipments were basically finished and only plums and plum-like fruit remained. He did note that Tastyfrutti has an excellent new plum variety — Constanza, which it will be shipping into April. He said it is a black plum variety and is being offered along with the firm’s continued supply of plumcots and pluots.