Many U.S. retail shelves empty for Sonoran grapes

From Fresh Fruit Portal | 2 June 2023

Overview of table grapes from Mexico in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on June 2, 2023. 

Many U.S. retail shelves have no grapes for sale early this June, cries Carlos Bon, vice president of sales for Divine Flavor LLC, based in Nogales, AZ.

On June 1, Bon explains to that the Sonoran grape deal was forecast in March to be late because of unusually chilly weather in the winter and early spring. What was totally unexpected was the ongoing cool weather. He notes that on the morning of June 1, it was 55F in Caborca, a key Sonoran grape district near the Arizona border.

Grupo Alta, Divine Flavor’s parent company, is Mexico’s only grape grower to have production in all the country’s commercial grape-producing areas. All Sonoran grapes are late, Bon confirms.

Grupo Alta Team

To the south, the early grape deal in Jalisco was a huge commercial success this spring. Divine Flavor shipped its specialty varieties from Jalisco from early April until the last truckloads left May 23. High-quality Jalisco fruit may have heightened retail demand going into June. The South American grape deals are complete, meaning, Bon iterates, grapes are in very low supplies for the short-term. He is encouraging retail customers to not highlight grapes through conservative displays until supplies build in mid-June.

All colors and varieties of Mexican grapes have had FOB prices above $40 per box all season. Price isn’t such a problem as supply, Bon stresses. U.S. retail prices for grapes are ranging between $2.99 and $4.99 per pound in early June.

grape prices by history

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Flame Seedless is Sonora’s highest-volume variety. That particular variety has had production problems with small or inconsistent berry size, so it takes a lot of Flame bunches to fill an 18-pound box. The industry estimate this spring was for a relatively low 6.5 million boxes of Flames. Because of small Flame berry size, he projects Sonora “will be lucky” to ship more than five million boxes. 

Other grape varieties in Sonora should be of good size, quality and condition. Bon said the slow production season is good for quality, but, unfortunately, later than what we want. 

Exciting stuff coming!

Still, “We’ll have some exciting stuff coming soon!”

Sweet Globe and Sweet Celebration are having a “fantastic” production year. Gummy Berries will be on the market in 12 days. The widely popular Cotton Candy will be available by about June 25, Bon says.

Green seedless were coming online June 1. Red grapes are finally coming into the market about June 10.

What a year….

“If I had a magic lamp now and could choose between grapes being 25% cheaper, or in stock, I’d rub it in a second to be in stock. It’s been a very, very difficult season. The key is for us to stay in communication with our buyers and to keep them informed in a timely manner.” 

That said, the Jalisco deal went very smoothly. Autumn Crisp is a key new variety being produced in Jalisco and is Bon’s favorite grape variety of all time. Autumn Crisp is a huge commercial success.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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