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Chile: The potential of raisins for the table grape sector

"Chile has the conditions to have a competitive raisin export industry, which supplies itself with grapes grown exclusively for this purpose," is the main conclusion of the study carried out by the Foundation for Agricultural Innovation.

The work was carried out in the framework of the FIA ​​Dehydrated Fruits Innovation Program, in response to the challenges facing this area. "We wanted to generate knowledge for innovation and to deliver elements that would contribute to strengthening the raisin industry in Chile, so as to take advantage of the important market opportunities for the dehydrated ones in the world," says Maria Soledad Hidalgo, FIA's Strategic Development Director.

This, she adds, would increase the sophistication of primary production, contribute to the country's productive diversification, and increase exports value. "Challenges that Chile has set itself to achieve in the food area," Hidalgo stresses.

According to the study's coordinator, Rocío Castillo, based on preliminary data FIA sought to explore the economic viability of having a garden of grapes dedicated especially to the production of raisins. "The economic analysis that was carried out to establish a garden with grape varieties for raisins, with a system of conduction and agronomic management for this purpose, showed that it is a valid and profitable production option for producers interested in having a stable price in time" he says.

Currently in Chile there are no orchards or grape varieties dedicated to the production of raisins. For this reason, the industry must source both discarded grapes and grape packing for export, and, depending on the market price, of table grapes redistributed to the production of raisins.

This situation has determined that the volumes exported have declined progressively. In 2012 Chile exceeded 70,000 tons exported, with 70 exporters, of which 5 accounted for 55% of exports. "In 2015 the volumes exported fell to around 62,000 tonnes, but the number of exporters exceeded 100, and the top 5 exporters accounted for 41% of the total volume exported," Castillo said. "The exports of 2015 represented a FOB income of 152.6 million dollars," he adds.

Action on various fronts
Within the actions of the FIA ​​Dehydrated Program, one of the fundamental axes is the articulation with the sector. These meetings identified gaps, such as the difficulties of growing in production and volumes exported because of the lack of grapes for raisins, since it is an item that comes from discarded table grapes, presents a production ceiling and a strong dependence of this product.

But they also warned that this disposal had a market, demand, competition and also reached prices higher than the raisins of competing countries. "So we ask ourselves: Why does Chile not produce raisins and all its competitors do?", Says Rocío Castillo. "This work allowed us to identify this possible diversification opportunity, but before it was important to generate antecedents that validated it. That was how the study was born, " she explains.

The main players in the world market for raisins are the United States, Turkey and China, which together account for 64% of world production. The first two also account for 44% of the internationally traded volume. Chile, with 62,000 tons and an 8% of global participation, ranks fourth in the export ranking.

According to the conclusions of the study, to develop this industry actions must be taken in different areas. For example, from a productive point of view "it is necessary to develop specific technologies for the production of raisins adapted to the national conditions, and to develop pilot orchards that allow to validate and transfer these technologies and managements to the industry", maintains the FIA professional.

From the organizational point of view, "actions must be carried out aimed mainly at strengthening the organization of the industry, establishing internal production regulations and strengthening the formality of the business. Finally, in terms of competitiveness, the study concludes that it is very important to generate a specific gloss for the Jumbo Raisin, since it is our star product and differentiated in relation to our competitors' offer, " she adds.

The study was also conclusive in determining the constraints that would impede the development of this industry. "Among the most important are the weak organization of the industry, which translates into a disconnection between the actors, the proliferation of informal business, and the lack of trust between exporters and producers, among others."

Another limiting factor, adds Castillo, is the low availability of raw material, due to the decrease in the national surface area of table grapes, the lower availability of export discards and the replacement of new varieties with few qualities for the production of raisins. "Finally, there is little development of specific orchards for raisins, therefore no work has been done in improving productive managements and technologies to generate an attractive business", she concludes.

The study is available for free download on the digital platforms www.opia.cl and www.fia.cl.

Publication date: 10/3/2017


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