Grape lovers in North America and beyond may have a tough time finding their favorite fruit over the next few months.
Heavy and unusual downpours in late January devastated unharvested grapes in Chile, the worlds No. 1 exporter.
The deluge left as much as 40%, or 400 million pounds, of Chiles crop unusable due to damage such as mold, according to grape expert John Pandol.
Its still too early to see a huge impact on retail prices, with some varieties in the U.S. now fetching about 5% more than they were this time last year, government data show.
A move in wholesale markets, though, indicates bigger price tags may be in store soon for consumers. The average wholesale price of grapes shipped from Chile into the U.S. last week was roughly 30% higher than a year earlier.
A spike in retail grape costs would be just the latest marker of food inflation. Grocery bills are going higher across the globe with supply chains still snarled from the pandemic and as more extreme weather threatens farm production.
Heres a deep dive into terminology for all the fruit nerds out there. Table grapes is the name given to the varieties you eat at the table (or while sitting on the couch). They come in red and white, though in the U.S. the white fruit are often known as green grapes. Those lighter ones were the hardest hit by the rains.
Nervous wine drinkers need not worry. The varietals crushed to make the good stuff are a whole different thing and seem pretty safe for now thanks to being further along into the Chilean harvest season.
But green table grapes could be in short supply.
The U.S. and Canada wouldve normally snapped up about half the Chilean grapes that were lost to the rains, equaling as much as 10% of annual consumption, said Pandol, the special projects director of California-based Pandol Bros., a grower, importer and exporter of grapes and other produce.
Prices will continue to go up as supply dwindles, said Mike Asdoorian, co-owner of DLJ Produce in California.
Shortages could hit American grocery stores later this month and last into May, especially for the green grapes, which are less resilient to inclement weather than the red ones.
Grapes dont like rain, said David Magana, a senior horticultural analyst for Rabobank. The fruit splits.
Thankfully relief will come when Mexicos production kicks off and the nation starts exporting, likely in late May, according to Magana.
In the meantime, citrus fruits and strawberries will be among the biggest winners from grape-gate, Pandol said.
Fruit consumption tends to be impulsive with the exception of bananas, Pandol said. People go with whats on sale or what looks good.
Kim Chipman in Chicago
Sembrando Vida, or Sowing Life, is Mexican President AMLOs flagship environmental project a $3.4 billion tree-planting plan. It pays farmers to plant trees for fruit or timber on small plots of land. Locals, however, say that the system incentivizes farmers to clear land of jungle in preparation for planting.
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With assistance by James Attwood