Alberto Carleti is one of the most important cherry producers and exporters of Valle de Uco, in the province of Mendoza, Argentina, and a member of the board of Mendoza's Cherry Commission. In his opinion, the acreage for cherry cultivation will continue to drop. He also pointed out that the region's yield has fallen, which is bad news for the sector.
- How is the cherry season shaping up after the frosts?
- The worst problem we have to face today is the damage caused by these frosts, which is sadly quite significant. 80% of cherry plantations have been affected.
We can only wait for the next phenological stage of the plant, which is the settling, to have more precise information. Cherries, by nature, have a low settling rate, despite an intense flowering. If we bear in mind that very few flowers are still healthy, prospects are not good.
- How many kilos may have been lost?
- It is difficult to make an estimate in kilos, but if we bear in mind that the province usually harvests between 6,500 and 7,000 tonnes per season and we expect 80% of that to be lost, you can easily imagine.
- How many people will lose their jobs because of this situation?
- This problem affects the entire stone fruit sector and is already being studied with concern. As a whole, the reduction in the workforce will be noticeable. We are already talking to the authorities about the social impact this will have.
These activities not only require intensive labour, but also raw goods and materials that will no longer be needed. We understand that the social impact is a cause for concern, mainly in the area of Valle de Uco, where trade also depends on fruit production.
- Last season, prices were relatively good. Why has the acreage been reduced?
- Last season, cherry prices improved as a result of Argentina and Chile's lower production volumes; with normal volumes, the expected market prices would return.
This year, the losses for fruit growers in Chile have been huge. There is so little left that it will not cover the production costs.
- Mendoza went from being the number one cherry exporter to just the fourth, why is this?
- Firstly, due to the lack of technological innovation, as this requires high levels of investment. Many cherry plantations were also eradicated and replaced by building projects, as in the area of Maipú, or converted for other crops.
Cherries require specialisation and large investments, and because of the lack of experience in the province, many of these investments are based on trial and error. Thus, producers do away with cherries and plant grapes. The production costs for a hectare of cherries reach between 30,000 and 35,000 pesos.
- Compared to other areas, has the yield dropped?
- In Mendona, the production per hectare generally reaches 4,000 to 6,000 kilos. In the area of Valle de Uco, the average would be of 8,000 to 12,000 kilos per hectare. Meanwhile, in the High Valley of Rio Negro, which has better technology and a selection of high-yield varieties, we could be talking 12,000 to 18,000 kilos per hectare.
- Will the activity recover in the medium term?
- In my opinion, Mendoza will continue losing acreage for cherry plantations. The region has been hit hard by these frosts and crops will most likely continue being abandoned.
(1 Argentinian Peso = 0,17 US$)