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Chile: Growing demand for new table grape and stone fruit varieties
"There's been a great change in the last two years. Two years ago 80% of the grapes we produced were standard varieties and 20% of them were of protected varieties, now that is changing. To respond to this increased demand we are working with companies like SunWord, and we got the IFG license last year. In addition we are partners of ANA, which seeks for genetics worldwide and licenses it to the nurseries," stated Marcia Barraza, the technical and sales manager El Tambo Nurseries.
Barraza added: "64% of the varieties planted in North America are protected and the rest are standard. Meanwhile, in Chile, 92% of our varieties are standard and only 8% are protected. Our main market is the United States, so if we analyze the data the varietal exchange in Chile is key and that is what is happening today."
Regarding the existing programs that exist in Chile, the manager pointed out that these are oriented to production, flavor and a good post-harvest, especially focusing on productivity and good management at the field level due to labor shortages.
Andrea Castro, the commercial executive of Nueva Vid nurseries, a company that has the exclusive license of propagation of the Arra varieties in Chile, also spoke about the interest of having new varieties. "As demand grows, so does supply and, even though there is a wide supply, it's still not enough. There is a good supply of red varieties for the mid and late season, but there not many early red varieties and there's also a small supply of white varieties. We, for example, in the Giumarra program have the Arra 29 variety that will replace the Flame variety. Arra 29 is an early red grape, just like the Flame variety, and it has a very good caliber, so the expectations regarding it are very high. This year we already sold 400 thousand plants of this variety, even though no one has seen its fruit yet, except the one produced in the United States and other countries. The first harvest of this variety in the country will take place in Copiapo and Vicuña in December, where producers are looking to replace the Flame variety because of its high production costs. In general, the new varieties have a lower cost, are more fertile, and have a larger berry diameter."
"Currently, we have three varieties in stock: the Arra 15, which replaces the Thompson variety, of which there already are 1000 hectares planted in Chile, making it the most planted new white grape variety in the country. Then we have the Arra 19, which is a mid season red grape, like the Perlon variety, that is being planted a lot in San Felipe, in the Aconcagua Valley, and finally the Arra 29 that replaces the Flame variety. We don't put a limit to the amount of hectares that producers can plant with our varieties but we do require that they plant a minimum of 10 hectares," Castro said.
In total Nueva Vid nursery produces 1.5 million plants, of protected and traditional varieties, per year; 800 thousand of which are of the Arra varieties. "There's been a decrease in the purchase of traditional table grape varieties, which demonstrates the industry's commitment to new varieties," she said.
Regarding other new varieties that are being coveted by the Chilean industry, Marcia Barraza stated: "The most demand SunWord varieties are the Sable Seedless, which already reached a maximum of hectares in Chile, as well as the Autumn Crisp, a white grape variety, and Sonera, a seedless red variety, and other new upcoming varieties. Meanwhile the IFG has approximately 10 varieties that have a high demand, such as the Sweet Celebration, Sweet Jubilee, Cotton Candy, and Jack's Salute."
According to Barraza, these new varieties would be more fertile, which would help the new developments, such as open gable, which would not only mean a greater productivity but also less labor, "to the detriment of other varieties, such as the Thompson variety, where you have to leave very long carriers that don't allow you to work in this type of movement," she said.
El Tambo nursery sells more than 800 thousand plants of table vines a year, and they are currently working to achieve selling 1.2 million plants starting next year. "We are making important investments in our nursery. This year we traveled to the United States to see new managements and new technologies in order to adopt them to produce more plants on less surface," stated the Technical Manager.
Issues to solve
According to Barraza, even though the Chilean fruit industry is demanding more and more new varieties, having them is not an easy task.
"The issues to enter the new varieties into the country makes it difficult for us to offer a greater amount of varieties and to respond to the growing demand being generated in Chile. We have a tremendous detriment in the entry process of the new varieties that puts us at a disadvantage regarding other countries that, like Peru, can enter the varieties directly for field evaluation. In Chile the whole process can take 5 to 6 years, while in Peru it can be done within a year. Even though there are efforts being made to streamline this process with the SAG, through the recognition of centers abroad, this aspect is still unfavorable for the sector," stated Marcia Barraza.
"We are one of the few nurseries that are producing stone fruit plants, where we are also seeing an increase in demand for new varieties. In this area we are also working with intellectual property. We produce about 300 thousand stone fruit plants annually, including plums (European and Japanese), peaches, nectarines, and donut peaches."
As an example of this greater demand, the professional said: "In Andes Nec-4, which is a white nectarine variety that has a very good post harvest, we completed the total 100 hectares for Chile this year. We were able to sell them very successfully in 3 years; something that we hadn't seen in any other variety."
"Today, seed genetics is pointing to less work in the field, more productivity and better post harvest, as a result stone fruit producers continue making this varietal change, which may still not be very visible, as they are currently planting more plants per hectare.
According to the Barraza, in addition to the varietal change, there's also been a change in the geographical area where this fruit was traditionally cultivated. "For example, cherry production is expanding southwards, given the interest there is for this product as even some dairy farmers see an opportunity in it and are beginning to produce it. Producers in the south look for varieties that require more cold hours. In that aspect the favorite variety there is the Regina variety; while in the central area they prefer the Santina, Lapins, and Sweetheart varieties," she added.
Publication date: 10/5/2017
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