Argentina: Table grape exports will remain low

Even though the harvest of the first clusters of grapes for fresh consumption will start next month in San Juan, surveys in the sector indicate that exports won't recover in the next season and will continue to fall, a trend that has been consolidating since 2012. Last season, only 4.5 million kilos were exported, a minimum volume considering that the three previous years shipments were still between 12 and 18 million kilos. It is also very far from the 70 million kilos exported in the 50's, when this sector was booming.

According to a survey conducted with five industry leaders, this season's export volume will amount to nearly 5 million kilos or less. Some exporters are even saying that this industry is in serious risk of disappearing. Others say they will fare well, but in the long term.

Although the harvest is about to begin, there is still much uncertainty in the sector, as it hasn't decided if it should export or not. They say that they are still affected by the issues that have taken this business to the edge of the precipice: a lack of competitiveness against their rivals - Chile and Peru -, caused by high domestic costs, high freight and energy costs, high export services, a delayed exchange rate and contributions, and high taxes.

The sector has also been affected by Brazil's demand that the table grapes be treated with methyl bromide, which decreases the quality of white grapes. If that obligation is eliminated, that destination could capture about 30 million kilos, according to the Chamber of Foreign Trade. In addition, big companies such as Expofrut or Patagonian Fruit have left this business because of its negative profitability and there are only three refrigerators of outstanding size - in 25 de Mayo, Caucete, and Zonda - to process the fruit.

Only the large producers remain, since the medium and small ones have been disappearing or abandoned their vineyards, which has reduced the production volume, and they mostly send their production to the domestic market or use it to produce raisins. San Juan had 7,000 hectares devoted to the two main varieties, the Red Globe and Superior varieties, and, including other varieties it had 10 thousand hectares devoted to this crop.


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