According to the harvest forecast of the Rural Development Institute (IDR) and the evaluation of the producers, the 2017/2018 cherry season will have high production volumes, good quality and favorable marketing prospects.
According to the IDR, Argentina will harvest 5,901 tons of cherry this season, the highest volume in the last five years. Between 2013 and 2015 the sector never exceeded 3,500 tons per year and the production estimated for 2016, when there was no official forecast, was around 2,000 tons. In this opportunity, the samplings were made on the Bing, Lapins and Rainnier varieties, which represent more than 60% of the planted area.
Alberto Carleti, a producer of cherries and president of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Tunuyan, said that the climatic conditions of the last months had been optimal for the crops, in spite of last week's rains. "Everything indicates that the province will have a good production volume," he said.
Diego Aguilar, the president of the Chamber of Cherries of Mendoza, said this season's volume would be very good, in both productive oases. The production of cherries from Mendoza is concentrated in the Uco Valley (Tupungato, Tunuyán and San Carlos) and in the northern oasis (Las Heras, Lujan de Cuyo, and Maipu).
"Some areas have achieved yields of 8,000 to 9,000 kilos per hectare, a volume that is close to the ideal for the province," he added.
Fernando Güizzo, from Güizzo Frutas Frescas, was satisfied by the volume produced. "We have achieved good volumes with the combination of varieties. It is difficult to determine what the general situation of the sector is but the weather conditions have been good and the cherry trees that have been properly pruned and thinned, have had a good performance," he said.
Another good news for producers is that the calibers obtained are within normal parameters. According to the producers, more than 50% of the cherries will exceed the 26 mm caliber this year and some varieties will be above 28 mm.
Their quality is also good. According to producers, the cherries will meet the high demands of the export market.
Producers expect better prices
The 2017/2018 season has a good production volume and a good quality, which should allow entrepreneurs to recover in the external market and improve prices in the domestic market.
"We have good sales expectations in the international markets thanks to the characteristics of the harvest. The internal economic problems and the bad harvests of recent years have made us lose market share abroad, but now the conditions are there for us to start recovering," Carleti said.
"The positive thing is that if we achieve a good performance in the export market, we will be able to remove pressure from the domestic market (due to stock reduction) and we will achieve a recovery in prices," Carleti added.
Fernando Güizzo coincided with that reading. "If we do not export, the price in the domestic market will not be convenient for producers and the entire sector will be at risk," he said.
Diego Aguilar agreed with that observation, but was optimistic about sales. "Exports are, once again, an alternative for producers thanks to the improvement of the exchange rate. In previous seasons, we didn't have the conditions to send the products abroad and, consequently, there was much more volume sent to the domestic market. Now the reality is different and we expect producers will get a greater return," he stated.
According to Alberto Carleti, the sector is strongly committed to traditional markets, such as Hong Kong and the European Union, but will also try to advance in China.
"Argentina is working to solve the phytosanitary obstacles that do not allow us to enter that country. Negotiations are slow but we have good expectations," he said.
Diego Aguilar also referred to the issue and protested the actions of some public bodies. "China is the world's largest consumer of cherries and pays a higher value than the general market. That's why it's important to export to that country," he said.
"The problem is that entering China is very difficult, because they have their own product certification system and the inspectors are very demanding," he added.
"The SENASA, the Chancellery, and the Ministry of Agribusiness are negotiating each product separately and have left the cherry for last.
Only the Iscamen has worked properly. We need to unlock the negotiations or we will continue to lose opportunities," he said.
Producers ask for a new census
Producers demand that the IDR conduct a new census in the province to determine how much land is currently planted.
The last census conducted by the Institute was in 2010. At that time there were 1,151.4 hectares with cherry trees in Mendoza, but the reality today is very different.
"In recent years the area under cultivation has fallen sharply due to poor harvests and unfavorable macroeconomic conditions," Carleti said.
"We know that there are 600 to 700 hectares with cherry trees in Mendoza, but we need more precise data to be able to work with a clearer picture," he stated.
Producers fear there will be a lack of labor for the harvest
The final stage of the cherry harvest is a few days away (as it takes place in the first fortnight in December) and the producers still aren't sure that they have enough manpower for it.
Alberto Carleti, said it was not possible to implement mechanized harvesting techniques for cherry, because there is a high risk of causing irreparable damage to the fruit.
The problem isn't maintaining a crew, it's that there is a lack of labor to harvest, especially when other products are having high yields.
The height of the garlic harvest season, for example, coincides with that of cherry. Even the construction sector demands a lot of people who usually lean towards work in the field.
"Labor must be qualified. People have to have a knowledge and experience to be able to harvest the cherry correctly without harming the fruit, "Carleti added.
"In addition, there is little time to harvest the entire crop. Most of the cherry that is produced in Mendoza is destined for fresh consumption and, once the fruit ripens, it must be eaten in a relatively short time. That's why we must have all the necessary labor at the right time," he concluded.