Due to the recent earthquake in Chile's central regions, we're anticipating a significant shortage of Chilean grapes within the next 10 days. We expect the shortage to extend through early April and perhaps all the way to the first of May. Here's an update based on information we've been able to collect over the past couple of days: Most important, our vendor partners in Chile report that they're unharmed. Unfortunately, their infrastructure didn't fare as well and there will be an impact on fresh produce supplies, especially table grapes. Packing houses have been especially hard hit, and we've received reports that many cold storage facilities and packing plants have been destroyed. Thousands of pallets of fruit that was packed and ready for shipment has been lost. Chile's Sixth Region, where grape production is peaking, is reported to be a disaster, without electricity since the earthquake struck this past Saturday. The capacity to cool and hold new fruit is extremely limited. On the farms, staff members are gradually returning to work, depending on whether basic serves such as power and water have been restored. Fruit that dropped in the orchard is not yet cleared and a full estimate of what's been lost is incomplete. Many vineyards are reported to have been affected by the movement of the earth, some vines have collapsed and it's still unknown how root systems may have been affected. The fall apple harvest is just getting underway, so it's early to know what that impact will be. As of this morning, we're hearing estimates that it will be 10 days before the ports return to normal operations. As a result, we expect to see a 10 day gap in Chilean supplies that corresponds with that time frame. In produce there's always a variable factor driven by Mother Nature. In this case she really threw our Chilean friends a doozey. We're extremely thankful that the people we work with in Chile are in good health. Lucky for us here at home there are a lot of terrific items in produce that provide alternative to grapes while supplies are scarce. A few suggestions if you're looking for something sweet:
- Yellow ataulfo mangoes are just about to hit their stride and are one of our most popular mangoes of the year. These are only available in spring, so don't miss them!
- Maradol papayas are another tropical treat that's currently eating really well.
- We're just introducing a Whole Trade Guarantee pineapple at Whole Foods Markets around the country this month. It's a super sweet variety from Costa Rica that we're extremely proud of!
- It's all about varietal citrus! Murcott and Pixie tangerines are some of the best eating fruits of the season.
- Spring is nearly upon us and that means artichokes, baby broccoli, spring onions and new potatoes are all on their way to market.
- Strawberry supplies are greatly improved (remember the shortage in January from the Florida freeze?) and should be plentiful throughout the country.