Northern Chile’s grape season to end almost a month early

From Fresh Fruit Portal | 4 March 2024

Overview of grapes from Chile in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on March 4, 2024.

Table grape producers of the Atacama region in northern Chile say that an early start to the season means harvest will end 3-4 weeks earlier than usual. Total volume is projected to drop about 10-15%. 

Ricardo Susaeta, president of the Association of Agricultural Producers and Exporters of the Copiapó Valley (APECO), says they had the earliest start in decades. The main challenge has been high temperatures. 

“In November and December, we were very pessimistic about the economic outcome, but market prices were very good in January of this year. With the production backlog in central Chile and the volume drop in Peru, we can project a good season for the valley (northern region), where the price will help offset lower production volumes,” Susaeta told

Regarding weather conditions, he said that high winter temperatures caused poor sprouting, which implies more work in  greening, thinning, and harvesting, lower efficiency in all work, and generally lower yields.

“Very high temperatures also in spring, shortening the fruit growth period and causing, in many cases, smaller fruit sizes. Finally, heat waves in the summer generate difficulties in harvesting and usually greater problems of dehydration and fruit condition,” added Susaeta. 

Destination markets

Fruit that in other seasons went to markets such as the Far East or Latin America, this year will end up in the USA, according to Susaeta.

grape volumes by history 3

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

“This is due to the lack of supply in this market because of the short season in California affected by the weather and the lower production in Peru, and the drop of the central zone of Chile,” Susaeta said.

“This is very attractive for us,” he adds. “Transit time is shorter and, consequently, the condition and quality of the fruit in the market is usually better than in more distant markets. In addition, returns and results come sooner.”

Fruit quality

 High spring temperatures contributed to slightly smaller sizes than in previous seasons.

“Regarding condition, it is still too early to know the final result, but normally lower yields result in better fruit condition and color,” Susaeta said.  “It also happens that, as there is less supply, quality and condition problems are bypassed by the market’s need for fruit. In other words, customers have a higher tolerance for defects than when there is excess supply.” 

Newer varieties

The northern Chilean crop has transitioned to newer varieties. Table grapes coming out of Chile include a mix green and red varieties that include Sweet Globe, Autumncrisp, Sweet Celebration, Timco, Allison, Jack’s Salute. Among the black varieties are Sweet Favors and Midnight Beauty.

Traditional varieties such as Red Globe, Thompson, and Superior remain, but with a decrease in volumes.

“In the last decade, there was so much demand for the new varieties that in many cases the production technique for each of them was not fully developed,” Susaeta said. “Technicians and producers have made a great effort to improve quality and condition and thus get closer to the average result of the genetic programs.” 

Asked about how he foresees the crop in coming years, Susaeta says growers in the north are confident about their ability to leverage their geographic position, climatic conditions and professionalism to overcome challenges like water scarcity.

Chile and Peru will meet on Aug. 8, 2024, in the first Global Grape Convention to be held at the Monticello Casino Event Center, about  the major challenges facing the global grape industry.

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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