End to price differences for grapes

The growth of table grape production in countries where grapes can be harvested all year round could bring an end to price differences for early and late season grapes, said Gawie van der Merwe of Capespan, a global fruit marketing company, at a feedback session on the recent International Table Grape Symposium.

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In a 20-year period from 1986 to 2006, table-grape production in Peru increased from about 3 million to 4 million 4,5kg cartons per year to over 20 million cartons per year, he noted. In Brazil, production increased from 50 million cartons to over 160 million cartons.

Drivers of production growth in Peru and Brazil are low production costs and favourable geographic location.“These countries are situated along the equator and the climatic conditions enable them to harvest at any time of the year, while producers in the northern and southern hemispheres can only harvest grapes once year in the summer season,” explained Van der Merwe.

The harvest season for table grapes in the northern hemisphere starts in May, when varieties from areas able to produce early seasonal fruit come onto the market. Prices are at a peak then, and farmers who can harvest grapes during this time can earn higher profits.

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The cycle is repeated when the northern hemisphere harvest seasons ends and the first grapes from the southern hemisphere are harvested in early November. However, this seasonality in grape prices and supply could be a thing of the past because countries like Brazil and Peru are increasingly changing production patterns to harvest grapes at times when there’s usually a low supply on world markets.