After two exports of cherries - in 2014 and in 2016 - proved that Neuquen's Presidente Peron Airport could serve as a connection to the wider world, in March, the sector presented a project to build a cargo airport in Neuquen; an initiative that is currently at a halt.
According to the project, two of the four existing hangars will be retrofitted to function as a transfer room for operations.
A third hangar could be used as a cold room. These modifications would cost 15 to 20 million pesos and the sector is still looking for financing. The proposal was also presented to the Ministry of National Production.
The cherries were the first product exported from the airport. The goal of shipping cherries in direct charters from Neuquen was to arrive in the destinations market first to capture the scoop prices, which are more attractive, as well as the late ones.
The problem is that once the scoop prices pass, prices begin to decrease with the arrival of Chilean fruit. According to Anibal Caminiti, the logistics costs for these fruits are high and, since producers need to ship a lot of volume, they themselves can depress the price of their product. It's different when the product is shipped to Asian markets, as is the case in China, which can absorb large volumes of product and where the impact is diluted in another way.
The plane loaded with cherries produced in the region will not leave from Neuquen airport. The logistics to export from the local airport had already been organized in 2014 and 2016, but this year the private entrepreneurs still haven't decided if they are going to use it to ship their product. One of the reasons that holds them back is the lack of markets. They are also worried that they won't make much of a profit due to the depressed prices in international markets.
They currently have a lot of fruit, but if they can't open any Asian markets - basically China - that justify the sending of charter planes, the companies won't think about the possibility of doing so.
The country has been negotiating to open the Asian market for several years and, even though there was a change in the country's government and despite them claiming to have opened borders, China is closed for Argentine cherries.
"We will have 13 to 14 thousand tons and the region will have around 5 thousand tons. Río Negro and Neuquen will export about 3 thousand tons. Both account for 50% or more of Argentina's export," said Caminiti.
Chile will also have a good season. There will be a lot of fruit in the world so there will be an important impact on international prices. Even though each company has its own strategy, they all seek to conquer Asia. It has better prices, and demand in traditional markets, in general, has stagnated.