Strong demand expected for Chilean kiwifruit
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With big-volume California and Italian kiwifruit seasons winding down, importers expect strong demand for Chilean product, expected on U.S. retail shelves by early April.
Madera, Calif.-based Western Fresh Marketing Inc. expects to kick off its Chilean program around the end of March, said Chris Kragie, sales manager.
Western Fresh’s Chilean volumes should rise about 15% this season, Kragie said.
Wenatchee, Wash.-based Giumarra of Wenatchee expects its first arrivals of Chilean kiwifruit in the first or second week of April, said salesman Jason Bushong.
With abundant supplies of California and Italian kiwifruit late in their respective deals, Chilean shippers have been in no hurry to send their fruit to the U.S., Bushong said.
Stellar Distributing Inc., Madera, Calif., expects to have Chilean fruit available for customers on both coasts by April 2 or 3, said sales manager Kurt Cappelluti.
Stellar is foregoing haywards in favour of higher-brix summer-variety kiwifruit early in the deal, Cappelluti said. And for the first time this year, the company is importing gold-flesh kiwifruit from Chile, which should begin arriving about April 15, he said.
California was winding down the week of March 26, but Cappelluti expected product from Italy, which had a large crop this season, to ship through about mid-April.
Both California and Italian deals should wind down by about April 9, which should set up well for the Chilean deal, Bushong said.
“We’re expecting good demand,” he said.
On March 27, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $13-15 for 19.8-pound containers of Hayward 25-27s from Italy, down from $16-16.50 last year at the same time.
Markets on 20-series-size fruit will likely strengthen in the coming weeks, while prices of size-30-series fruit should stay steady, Bushong said.
Markets should strengthen as late-season California and Italian product leaves the pipeline for good, Kragie said. For the first two weeks of the Chilean deal, Chilean kiwifruit will likely remain in the $12-16 range, he said.
There is some concern, Kragie said, over weak demand for Chilean kiwifruit in Europe. That could force shippers to ship too much product to the U.S., with the effect of softening markets.
To help prevent that scenario, though, many Chilean shippers are holding early-season fruit in cold storage this year, waiting for European demand to improve, Kragie said.
“We’re crossing our fingers that the market will stay good,” he said.
Markets have been steadily strengthening as the large California crop has started winding down, Cappelluti said March 27. He expected markets to remain steady as Chile takes over the deal.
Once all the late-season Californian and Italian product has been shipped, Chile should have the kiwifruit deal to itself for about six weeks, until New Zealand fruit begins arriving, Kragie said.
Early-season Chilean fruit should be firmer than late-season California and Italian product, and overall quality should be very good, Bushong said. He also reported a good mix of fruit sizes.
Giumarra expects its Chilean kiwifruit volumes to be similar to last season, Bushong said.
Western Fresh also expects good quality and a good mix of sizes, with plenty of fruit in the size-25 to the size-45 range, Kragie said.
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