Insights on Table Grape Seasons in Latin America
According to FAOSTAT data, Latin American countries were the world’s leading table grape exporters in 2021.
Chile led the way, with 541,258 metric tons or 12.8% of global exports and Peru ranked second with 490,050 tons, representing 11.6% of the worldwide total.
The third highest-ranking country in Latin America was Mexico, which exported 197,112 tons (4.7% of the world’s total).
The table grape season in Latin America
Seasonality drives competition between these three countries as they fight for market share.
Chile and Peru compete directly since the Chilean season runs from December to May, with the peak in January, February and March. Meanwhile, the Peruvian season peaks between December and March.
This leaves Mexico in a strong position since its peak exports are in May, June and July, and it can obtain better prices.
Peru, the new leader in grape exports?
Despite Chile’s leading position, Peru may claim the top spot as the world’s largest exporter in 2023.
The Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX) estimates they’ll export 60 million boxes this year, a significant drop compared to the 110 million boxes shipped in 2022. Peru, on the other hand, could reach 70 million boxes.
There are three primary reasons for this change in leadership:
- Climate: The grape-growing regions in Peru have a warmer climate than Chile, which provides more favorable conditions. Moreover, climate change has affected the Chilean industry and created more unpredictable weather conditions.
- Diversification: Peru is diversifying its supply of exportable agricultural products, with blueberries and avocados helping it to gain ground in international markets, contributing to its overall increase in agro exports.
- Competitiveness: Agro exports are being boosted in Peru with policies and programs that promote investment in infrastructure, technology, and training for farmers.
The value and volume of Peruvian grapes are expected to grow between 9-11% in 2023 compared to 2022, fueled by increasing demand in the United States and Mexico.
In addition, the Peruvian grape industry is driven by varietal replacement. New varieties already account for 68% of its production due to higher productivity, better quality and flavor.
It is also important to mention that green or white varieties are predominant in Peru, due to better prices in the European and U.S. markets, according to ProducePay’s Field Operations team.
Challenges facing Chile’s grape industry
Grape growers in Chile recently expressed their concern to the Chilean Minister of Agriculture regarding water availability, high production costs, and the impact of pests, specifically Lobesia botrana and fruit rot.
So far, in the 2022/2023 season, Chilean grape exports have fallen below the volume of the previous season. However, it is expected that in the 2023/2024 season, 53% of the exported volume will correspond to new grape varieties, that should increase competitiveness in international markets.
The industry also faces several critical challenges, including:
- Competition: Chile’s season coincides with Peru’s, from January to May, and Mexico can take advantage of its proximity to the United States. Therefore, Chile needs new varieties to compete.
- Post-harvest waste: Because of Chile’s greater distance from the United States compared to Peru, it must use packaging that reduces dehydration and premature deterioration of the fruit to guarantee its quality.
How is the grape season progressing in Mexico?
According to information from the Agricultural Outlook, Mexico’s grape production season runs from May to September, with residual volumes in October and November, while almost all exports occur during May, June and July.
In addition, Mexico imports grapes to meet its domestic demand from August through March, mainly from the United States, Chile and Peru, importing the highest volumes in October, November and December.
ProducePay’s Field Operations team indicates that while there are no harvest delays in northern Mexico, production costs have increased by up to 35% in the last two years, primarily driven by labor shortages caused by competition with the Bajío region and increased fertilizer prices.
Despite this, a successful 2022/2023 season is expected, with “extraordinary” quality in all varieties. In Sonora, the top-producing state, black types are being eliminated in favor of red varieties due to their greater sweetness and more attractive appearance.
Varietal replacement status
Varietal replacement will be essential for all three countries. Peru began its varietal change six years ago and has made great progress. Currently, seedless white grapes represent 42% of its exports, followed by seedless red varieties with 28%.
The most recent varietal replacement began between 2012 and 2014 in Chile, but the process has been relatively slow. However, in the last couple of years, it has accelerated, and Red Globe, Crimson, Thompson and Timco are some of the most important varieties in the country.
In Sonora, Mexico’s highest grape production region, growers have begun to renew varieties to reduce production costs. Flame is the dominant variety, with 60% of the market. Prime, Perlette, Early Sweet, Superior, Cotton Candy, Ivory and Sweet Sapphire are also in-demand varieties.
It’s vital for buyers and growers to keep informed about trends in Latin America’s table grape season.
Staying up-to-date allows growers to plan their operations, explore new markets and diversify their supply. And for buyers, knowing the key moments helps to ensure year-round supply with more diversified and higher quality products.
Sources: Memo, Fresh Fruit, Agraria, Portal Frutícola, Portal Frutícola, Fresh Plaza