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Chile: Despite hail, Maule has high expectations for its fruit

The region of Maule had a positive start of the season and, according to forecasts, it should have a high production of fruit in the 2017/2018 season. However, a hailstorm on Tuesday night in the area of Longavi, Linares, generated total losses in several areas.

Since Maule is the national leader in blueberry production, producers consulted Andrés Armstrong, the executive director of the Chilean Blueberry Committee, which specializes in this berry, what effects this event could have in this production. According to Armstrong, despite what happened, the projections for the region didn't change. The damage is tremendous in each case, but the overall results of the region will not be affected, he said.

During the past weekend and up until this Tuesday, several hail events occurred in the central-southern and southern areas, which affected some crops, he stated. However, "we don't have a damage assessment so far (...) These events were very localized and mostly in the pre-mountain sectors. Therefore, the damage suffered by the affected producers, which in some cases can be very high, can not be extrapolated to the rest of the region, because the concentration of orchards in those sectors is lower and because the fall of hail wasn't even. In fact, neighboring producers indicate that one of them was affected and the other wasn't," he added.

In turn, Antonio Walker, president of Fruseptima, said that the hail that fell for several hours was very unusual.

"The production was lost where the hail fell, whether it was blueberries, apples, or pears," he said, adding that he agreed with Armstrong that the event had affected very specific areas and that, in that sense, it was difficult to quantify the amount of surface affected, as well as the economic and production losses.

However, he said, this is a small issue within a season that has been developing quite normally.

When asked if what happened affected their previous estimates regarding the region's fruit production, he said it was prudent to wait a few days to quantify the damage, but that he didn't believe this would alter their projections.

Important numbers in fruit
The 2017-2018 fruit-growing season hasn't been affected by frosts and there has been a good flowering, as such producers have good expectations and there is a substantial export potential.

Chile's Blueberry Committee stated at the end of October that the region of Maule could export up to 31,521 tons of fresh blueberries this season, i.e. 9.2% more than the 28,606 tons exported in the previous campaign.

According to Walker, the projections for the production and for the Maule region are positive. Additionally, he said, they expect it will be an important season for cherries.

According to estimates, Chile will export 35 million boxes of cherries. "It's a record production that we've never seen before," he said.

The last big production took place three years ago, when the country exported 24 million boxes.

Last season, Chile only exported 20 million boxes of cherry.

"The only issue we've faced is that we've had a lot of rain, so we've had to apply more fungicide to avoid the fungus, which makes the agrochemical program more expensive," he said.

Maule exports can grow by 7% overall. However, in cherries the increase is outstanding, as it will increase by nearly 30%, according to the representative of Fruseptima.

Current expectations are higher than were at the same time last season.

Source: Diario El Centro

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