In its third seminar of the year "Seasonal analysis, projections and challenges for Chilean fruit", the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), an association that represents companies from all segments of the global fruit and vegetable chain, analyzed the challenges faced by producers and exporters of grapes, cherries, and blueberries.
Juan Colombo, the commercial manager of Subsole, spoke about the differences between the world's production and export of grapes, where production amounts to 22.7 million tons (and China and India account for 60% of the total), while exports amount to 3.1 million tons (and Chile is the world's main exporter with 23% of the total).
This market, he said, has multiple origins. It is alive, changing, and the availability of grapes can increase when a new competitor enters the market.
Grapes: four challenges
The first challenge is to understand where the consumption is; who is buying grapes? There is a concentrated demand for this product dominated by Walmart (which didn't have any perishables in its stores 15 years ago), Carrefour, Metro Group, Ahold, and Tesco. "People mainly buy their food in supermarkets. Thus, we must understand the business environment and take a stand," Colombo said.
A second challenge has to do with the product itself, where taste, quality, (certified) health, good packaging, and seedless varieties are key. A third key challenge is related to the control of the production and supply chain, an area in which Chile has an advantage thanks to the many years of experience it has. In addition, the packaging and post-harvest infrastructure, transport logistics, as well as the infrastructure and supply equipment in destination also have a relevant role.
A fourth challenge, Colombo said, is carrying out a joint strategy with the final seller, achieving smart prices, stock rotation, multi-markets, multi-products, allowing annual growth and safer demand. This, there is no doubt, linked to a full involvement of the business.
Lucia Corbetto, a founding partner at Frisku Foods, said that the situation of Chilean blueberries resembled that of the grape sector in many aspects, not only in the challenges regarding the entry of new competitors that have production windows that last all year, but also in the search for new markets.
This sector produces more than 100,000 tons between September and March and has more than 14,000 hectares devoted to this crop, and its challenges include achieving a greater and better positioning with its customers and in markets such as China, where it also requires having recognized brands. "In China, knowing who is on the other side of the table is relevant; thus, positioning ourselves and being recognized for our product's quality, would give us an advantage," said the businesswoman.
According to Lucia Corbetto, it is essential to have partners and a coherent distribution in Europe; sending the fruit in perfect conditions, segregating customers by area, and differentiating brands in Asia; while in the USA the just-in-time and direct retail gain relevance.
Cristian Tagle, the commercial manager of San Francisco Lo Garces, said that this year the Chilean cherry production volume had increased by 96% and that there had been a 15% drop in the FOB price of the product, which is quite moderate, according to him. However, he said, in the following four years the volumes should double again, considering the area that is already planted with the product and that will begin to yield products during said period.
The president of the Cherry Commission of Asoex stressed that the industry "will undoubtedly invest in process capacity to face the peak weeks of the coming seasons, when production will double." He also said they would increase the packaging lines. "We foresee no problems in this regard for next year, but the challenge is very big," he said.
Meanwhile, Christian Corssen, the general manager of the Santa Maria Fruit Company and Chairman of the WFP Council of Chile, highlighted the work being done to form working groups that focus on packaging, new varieties, and everything related to events and networking.