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Chile: Atacama to export more than 12 million boxes of grapes

The 2016-2017 national harvest of table grapes began yesterday at the small town of Amolanas, in the Valley of Copiapo. The Undersecretary of Agriculture, Claudio Ternicier, visited the town to start the season. This season, the region of Atacama is expected to export more than 12 million boxes. The first export from Caldera to California, USA, also took place and there will soon be shipments to Europe and Asia.

Ternicier highlighted that the region had managed to recover from the floods of 2015, which generated a 3.4% drop in exports. He also stressed that more than 7.2 billion dollars had been invested in local agriculture in the last two years thanks to the law of Irrigation Development. In the next three years, another 4.5 billion dollars will be invested in the sector.

The president of the Association of Agricultural Producers and Exporters of the Valley of Copiapo (Apeco), Lina Arrieta, stated that they had "very good quality fruit this season. Additionally, the value of the dollar is high and there is very little fruit in California's market."

It's been years since producers had such ideal weather conditions: there were snowstorms in 2011 and 2012, then there were floods, and afterwards, there was frost. Apeco accounts for 90% of the fruit growing area in the Valley of Copiapo, and 955 of the table grape sector.

Arrieta said that they expected to generate 17,000 jobs in March 2017 "for the many women who are head of their households, which is something that is more common in our industry than in other productive sectors."

Additionally, they hope to create many indirect jobs related to transportation, food, and services. To express the relevance of the jobs created, the president of the Association of Bolivian Residents in Atacama, Jhonny Gabriel, said there were about 500 Bolivians that permanently lived in the area, and that some 1,500 people would be traveling from Bolivia thanks to the jobs that the sector created.

The mayor of Atacama, Miguel Vargas, said that the diversification of the regional productive matrix had to be based on agriculture, the second most important sector after mining: "We expect to make more than 200 million dollars in revenue and create a total of 18,000 jobs."

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