(Feb. 23) California’s mid-January freeze gave a boost to an already strong Chilean grape market, and rains in Chile in mid-February shouldn’t have much if any of a negative impact on the crop, importers said.

“Overall, it’s been a good season so far,” Josh Leichter, grape category manager in the Newark, Del., office of The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, said Feb. 20. “When the citrus freeze hit, there were a lot of promotions on grapes. My guess is we’ll finish this season slightly up over last year.”

Sizing is on the small side this year, Leichter said — on average, about one size smaller than last year on all varieties. But excellent quality has more than made up for that, he said.

Oppenheimer expects to receive its last shipments from Chile in mid-April, Leichter said. Throughout the deal, which began in December, shipments have been 7 to 14 days ahead of schedule, he said.

On Feb. 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $16-18 for 18-pound containers of extra-large Thompson seedless grapes from Chile, about the same as last year at the same time.

On Feb. 20 it was too early too assess the damage from heavy rains in Chile in mid-February, Leichter said. But he said some growing regions were untouched by the storms. Also, the rains were followed by cool weather, decreasing significantly the chances of fruit decaying.

“It looks like there will be less damage than anticipated,” he said.

Red varieties seemed to be unaffected by the rains, but some green varieties weren’t as lucky, said Omar Abu-Ghazaleh, import manager for Pacific Trellis Fruit LLC, Reedley. But the damage was largely mitigated, he said, by the fact that many greens were already in transit when the storms hit. Those shipments should last until mid-March, he said.

“This year we anticipate a record crop of greens and red crimsons,” Abu-Ghazaleh said. “We don’t see much of a drop in volume. There are already a lot of greens on the water.”