It’s a mixed bag of table grapes coming out of Mexico

From Fresh Plaza | 7 June 2024

Overview of grapes from Mexico in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on June 6, 2024.

Through the first week of June, the Mexican table grape industry has shipped 35 percent more volume compared to the same time last year. More than 5 million boxes have already crossed the border with the U.S. versus 3.9 million boxes at the same time last year. While grape crossings into the U.S. have been strong, the season has started out with inconsistent quality. At the beginning of the season, Flame Seedless is the dominant variety out of Mexico. While a fairly significant volume of Flame Seedless is being shipped, the fruit size is small. As a result, there is a lack of premium quality fruit in the market. The very best XLG Flames range from $20.95 to $22.95. Spot prices for small fruit on the other hand are in the $14.95 – $16.95 range.

grape prices by variety

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

Labor shortage

Causing the fruit to be small is a big crop that hasn’t been properly thinned. Thinning allows the fruit to grow bigger and results in the vine having less work to do. “However, growers in Mexico are struggling to get the labor to do additional work in the vineyards,” says Ira Greenstein with Direct Source Marketing. “Some growers are already having difficulties getting their grapes picked in a timely fashion and getting their entire crop to market.” Smaller fruit in combination with labor shortage is expected to reduce the country’s early production estimate of 24 million boxes to 20 million.

grape volumes by history

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

Premium fruit is on the way

Other early varieties from Mexico include green seedless Early Sweet, Timpson™, and Honey Pop™. Early Sweet is seeing very good quality, but low Brix levels. Timpson and Honey Pop on the other hand have better sugar levels but are smaller in size. “It truly is a mixed bag coming out of Mexico,” commented Greenstein. Lower quality in combination with significant volume has resulted in competitive pricing and lots of room for promotions. On the flipside, the smaller fruit size is challenging for retailers to work with. In recent years, they’ve become used to receiving large size premium grapes out of Peru and California. While some Mexican growers have moved to growing proprietary varieties like Sweet Celebration™, Sweet Globe™, and AUTUMNCRISP®, premium fruit from Mexico is still a week away. “The better varieties haven’t started in any significant volume,” shared Greenstein.

While Mexico fills an important void in the market, retailers and consumers demand better quality fruit. The central San Joaquin Valley will likely get an earlier start this year with production kicking off around July 10.

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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