Over the past few years, shoppers got used to having difficulty finding certain items in stores, like paper towels and toilet paper early in the pandemic, fresh turkeys around Thanksgiving, butter off and on last year, and eggs in more recent times. The latest supply chain challenge hitting grocery shelves across the U.S. - in the middle of produce season nonetheless - is a grape shortage. It has become increasingly common for shoppers in the past few weeks to find either empty shelves where grapes belong, or limited options at higher prices. And while supply chains are generally running pretty smoothly, a common supply chain disruption appears to be the main culprit behind the lack of this popular fruit.
Why Is There a Shortage of Grapes?
The shortage of grapes stems from a natural supply chain disruptor - the weather - along with a secondary factor. The main issue affecting the U.S. grape supply is not the weather today - but the weather a few months ago. The transitional season of the past month or so usually brings Mexico to the forefront of the grape supply, but as its harvest season began, volumes were quite low. How low? Through late May, the Mexican harvest was at 728,000 boxes, about a quarter of the volume of the same time in 2022.
That's because the country experienced colder, windier and wetter-than-normal conditions in February, delaying the start of growing season. On top of that, new varieties of grapes that have replaced older ones have a delayed season by a few weeks naturally. That means the gap between the end of previous supplier Chile's grape season - which also happened earlier this year - and the beginning of the Mexican season, has left shelves bare. The California season - which tends to take over the supply from Mexico - is also expected to be delayed a bit this year.
When Will the Grape Shortage End?
The grape shortage is already nearing its end in the U.S. Prices for grapes are beginning to decline as the supply from Mexico is starting to come in. The worst of the shortage should be in the past, with experts expecting June volume to be especially strong for both red grapes and green grapes. In fact, shipping of some varieties is just getting going this week as the harvest peak kicks into gear. The Mexican season should then extend comfortably into late July, with the California grape season taking over at that point.
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