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Chile: Producers are worried about the table grape export season
Farmers in northern Chile said the next table grape export season results would be very complicated and could jeopardize their productions' returns.
There are three reasons for this possible scenario. The first one is the good production recorded by the US industry that allowed that country, which is the main market for Chilean table grape exports, to store Californian grapes in cold storage.
The second reason is the competition from Peru's table grape production (which coincided with Chile's production), and the third reason is that the harvests in the regions of Atacama and Coquimbo came out ahead of schedule due to high temperatures. As a result of the latter, the United States imported a lot of production simultaneously, which led to a significant decrease in the product's price.
Silvia Jofre, a producers from the area of Chañaral Alto, in Atacama, said they still hadn't received any official information and that they were basing their conclusions on information coming from the foreign market.
For her "this is worse than the drought, because we practically threw away our grapes in the United States." She also said that the exporters paid her US $6 for the grapes sold to US, "but that doesn't include packing or harvesting the fruit." According to her, table grape production is estimated at about US $ 10 "and the product is being sold for US $2 or US $4. It's easy to imagine what this means. We'll all end up owing money, especially the small producers."
According to Jofre, one of the key factors that led to this negative scenario was the early harvest caused by the high temperatures they had last year, especially in August. "We started the harvest on November 30 (2016), and we always start it in January. I had never seen the harvest start that early in my 30 years in this area," she said.
Pedro Cortes, another producer, agreed with Jofre. "The United States stored a lot of its own production. In addition, they have changed their varieties and our fruit, mainly the earliest varieties from the north, achieved low prices because it arrived to the market at a time when there was an abundance of product. To make things worse, the Peruvians competed against us and the market was flooded with grapes," he said.
He said that currently a box would fetch a maximum of US $22 or US $24, while last season it was US $ 40. "That's the most they will pay, and certain varieties cost less. Overall, prices have been very depressed abroad, so in many cases the exporters have negative returns."
Regarding the impact this would have on small farmers, he said that it would be huge because they had invested a lot of money throughout the year in hopes of a high return, but had ended up losing money.
Meanwhile, Alfonso Artigues, a producer from the Limari Valley, in the region of Coquimbo, said they had received unofficial information stating that the scenario for the Flame and Thomson was very worrying. "There is a very large quantity of grapes. Producers have been able to sell their good quality grapes at reasonably decent prices, but the medium sized and the small sized grapes will achieve very bad prices," he said.
Publication date: 3/16/2017
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