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Tastyfrutti International’s Economou entering 34th Chilean season

Andreas Economou, known in the industry as “Andy” and as a Chilean grape expert, is entering his 34th year selling those grapes to his U.S. customer base.

For the 2019/2020 winter season (summer in Chile), Economou is anticipating a crop slightly smaller than last year but he does not expect it to sell any differently in the marketplace. Economou is chief operating officer of Philadelphia-based Tastyfrutti International Inc., which was formerly called Unifrutti of America when it was founded in 1984, and soon thereafter entered the Chilean grape deal. That country was in its very infant stage of selling its fresh table grapes to the United States.

IMG 6982 Economou’s prediction about this season’s grape volume squares with the official estimate, which has pegged the crop at 78.5 million boxes, 1.6 percent below the 2018/19 output. Both the prolonged drought conditions in some of Chile’s grape growing districts and a winter frost are being blamed for the very small dip in the supplies that will be sent to the U.S. market. The Tastyfrutti executive said buyers of the grapes won’t notice the difference. He said there will be plenty of Chilean grapes to sell from mid-January to well into May. He added that the simple theory of supply and demand will take care of slight variations in the production that may occur throughout the season.

“If we get too many grapes, the prices drops a little bit and we sell them,” he said. “If we don’t have enough, the prices rises and demand drops a bit.”

To Economou, the most important thing is to take care of your own customers’ needs and he is confident that this season will allow Tastyfrutti to do so.

While he expects the season to settle in like most of the others he has participated in, he did say that the timing of the crop, and the windows of opportunity in the U.S. marketplace for the various grape-growing districts, is changing. “The newer varieties tend to come off later so all of the regions are shifting a little bit,” he said.

Chile was once in the marketplace with grapes in early December with the season lasting until about the end of April. This year, Tastyfrutti was slated to receive its first grape shipment at the end of December, with it being the middle of January before supplies could be considered fairly strong. Promotable volume probably won’t be available until near the end of January. On the back end of the deal, Economou said volumes will be greater than in years past with plenty of production arriving for May sales.

In detailing the annual timing in the years ahead, he forecast that the window of opportunity for Chile will be from the end of January through May. Mexico will come aboard in May and, with the same later-arriving new varieties, go into the middle of summer with some volume in August. California’s Central Valley will have the market from August into mid to late January on some varieties. Having to sandwich into these time frames will be Peru from late fall through February and Coachella Valley, which will have to market from mid-May to mid-July. Because of the extreme heat that can hit the desert environs of Coachella, that region isn’t a prime candidate for adopting the later-maturing, newer varieties.

Economou did note that Coachella does have at least one of its own new green varieties — the Valley Pearl — which shows promise in helping to increase the value of that district.