It's important for Chile to diversify its prune markets
"Chile has become the main player in prunes because it is a serious country with unbeatable agricultural conditions, it has a solid public-private partnership, and it is a phytosanitary island," stated the president of Chile Prunes, Pedro Pablo Diaz, at the 5th Expo Prunes, which was attended by over 250 people from the sector.
In addition, he said, in recent years most of the productive chain, from production to marketing in international markets, has been working on something that is fundamental: quality.
"In the future we will face a turning point where everything can change overnight, and we need to change accordingly. We lead the global industry because of our 360º quality and integrated industry, but we have to move forward in generating value, generating a brand, and addressing sustainability," Pedro Pablo Diaz stated.
The prune industry exports 70 thousand tons of fruit and achieves returns of US $158 million. However, it faces a series of new challenges so that in the future it can achieve higher-caliber fruits and stop being perceived as a commodity in international markets.
In turn, Claudio Ternicier, the undersecretary of Agriculture, stated that "currently, we pay a lot of attention to these areas (nuts and dehydrated products) and to plums in particular. It is important to diversify markets and, in that sense, China and India are very relevant markets."
Chile exports prunes to 77 countries, but the top 10 account for 73% of exports. 211 countries consume this fruit, but the first 10 account for 60% of the total.
"This tells us that Chile is more concentrated than other countries, there are spaces to grow in our markets," said Andres Rodriguez, the executive director of Chile Prunes.
Increasing global consumption
Another big challenge has to do with global consumption, which has been stagnating in recent years, and has a downward trend in many countries. "It is not a dramatic downturn, but this poses several challenges: we must increase promotion, open markets and carry out research on how healthy this product is (Health Research)," he said.
He also said that this product had spectacular nutritional benefits. "It has a high level of antioxidants and fibers, it helps combat osteoporosis, as it regenerates bone density that has already been lost. These are things that we've know for a few years, but we must continue researching it to have the scientific support that allows us to use these arguments worldwide in our promotion and marketing efforts," said Andres Rodriguez.
US production remains stable, regarding sizes, as 50% to 60% of its production is of the largest calibers (60 and more). France is very committed to producing large caliber of high quality, and has exceeded 70, with an average of around 65. Chile has reached 50, but only nearly 30% of its production is of large calibers. "It is important we breach the gap and grow in sizes," said the executive.
Bill Krueger, an agricultural consultant for the Glenn County (California, USA) who has experience in all phases of the production of plums for dehydration, said that California also faced several of these challenges and a high cost of labor. "We must make changes and innovations because producing plums in the United States has become more expensive than producing nuts and almonds, and also has lower returns. As a result producers are planting almonds and nuts all over California."
What clients want
Pedro Torrijos, director of purchases for Latin America for IMPORTACO, said clients were looking for pitted plums (with no pit) that had a homogeneous color, a homogeneous shape and size (within the same package), that had a good size, were fleshy and juicy.
"Customers want a quality product that is safe. They don't want problems: they want plums that have a good visual appearance and an appropriate texture. They also want a competitive price. If plums are expensive, customers buy other fruits, such as dates." They are also looking for fruit that had low preservatives. "We must avoid allergens in our products," he said.
Andres Rodriguez added that the world was demanding large calibers, tasty plums, high quality, stable suppliers, a healthy product and food safety. "We can't forget we are selling food," he added
Publication date: 11/10/2017
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