Chilean grape shipments were finally starting to reach more normal levels the week of Feb. 7, allowing U.S. retailers to promote them, but markets should remain firm in coming weeks.

The Chilean grape industry should benefit from damage caused by the widespread freeze Feb. 4 in Mexico, said John Pandol, director of special projects for Pandol Bros. Inc., Delano, Calif.

“No one likes to think about competing products, but the freeze will create some space that melons probably would have filled,” Pandol said.

The week of Feb. 7, prices were stabilizing in the “2 million box-a-week level” that is normal for the Chilean deal this time of year, Pandol said.

And despite increased demand from other markets, and lower winter demand in the U.S. because of the wintry weather, when all is said and done, Chile will still wind up sending about half of its typical 100-million-box crop to the U.S., Pandol said.

Harvest would likely wind down in the first half of April, Pandol said.

By the week of Feb. 7, Chilean grape volumes had reached levels more typical for this time of the season, said Omar Abu-Ghazaleh, imports manager for Reedley, Calif.-based Pacific Trellis Fruit.

“Prices have finally dropped to promotable levels, and we’ve finally gotten retailers to promote,” he said. “Things are good.”

Thanks to continuing strong demand for Chilean grapes in Europe and Asia, prices are by no means low, however, Abu-Ghazaleh said.

And markets should stay firm for the foreseeable future.

On Feb. 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $20 for 18-pound cartons of extra-large thompsons from Chile, up from $18 last year at the same time.

Pacific Trellis was importing promotable volumes of flames, thompsons and other varieties in February, Abu-Ghazaleh said.

Sugraone supplies were expected to wind down by mid- to late February, he said. The last flames of the season should load by about mid-February, with crimsons taking over the red seedless deal when flames finished.

Crimsons should begin harvesting the week of Feb. 21, and continue for about six weeks, Pandol said.

Thompsons will ship until the end of the season, Abu-Ghazaleh said.

Quality in early February was exceptional, Abu-Ghazaleh said.

Volumes should slightly increase the week of Feb. 7, said Mark Greenberg, senior vice president of procurement for Fisher Capespan Inc., St. Laurent, Quebec.

Through the first few days of February, Chilean shipments were down substantially from last season, Greenberg said.

Globe shipments were 75% lower and Thompson shipments 35% below last season at the same time, Greenberg said. And despite predictions that they would increase significantly, flame shipments had not in early February, he said.