Chile: Grape season ahead of schedule - fruit has very good quality

Up until Wednesday, Chile had sent 85,462 tons of table grapes to different target markets, more than 3/4 more than the 48,062 tons it had shipped by same date of 2016. According to the chairman of Table Grape Chile, Fernando Sat, and the director of the Department of Information and Studies, Decofrut, Andrea Betinyani, there's been an increase in exports because the season started early, and they started exports two weeks before the previous season.

"Even though the season started earlier than usual, mainly because of the high temperatures recorded, we have achieved a very good fruit quality and flavor this season. We believe that, if there are no new adverse weather conditions, this campaign's total volumes will be very similar to those of last season, when we exported more than 86 million cases," Fernando Sat said.
Betinyani agreed with this forecast and added that, to date, more than 90% of the Chilean fresh grape volume exported has been sent to the US market, almost 4% to the Far East, 2% to Latin America, 1% to Canada, and less than 1% to Europe.

The chairman of ASOEX's Table Grape Committee said they had sent these percentages of table grapes to the different destinations because the United States traditionally consumed the varieties being exported, while Europe favored other varieties, such as the Crimson variety, that are still in process. "Europe's current exchange rate is also less attractive than that of America, which affects domestic exports to these markets," said the leader.

Fernando Sat also said that, regarding white table grapes, such as the Thompson and Superior varieties, the projection is that export volumes would be similar or slightly lower than last season because there were fewer clusters per plant. "The volumes of the white varieties are more limited and focused, we'll have to handle the situation case by case to make shipments as best as possible," he said.

In this sense, Sat stressed that this season was developing normally, despite the rainfall at Christmas, as the rains had no significant impact, and that they were complying with their obligations in the target markets. Regarding the general characteristics of the table grapes, both Sat and Betinayi said the grape quality and flavor achieved were very good, but that the calibers were smaller, mainly of the fruit from areas where there were heat waves.

"High temperatures accelerate the fruit's maturity, and it fails to grow enough. The lower caliber in berries, ultimately translates into a lower weighing cluster and, therefore, in a lower export volume," Betinyani said.

Fernando Sat added: "We believe that, since the season started ahead of schedule, it will also end before it usually does."

The Valley of Copiapo also had good results
In the north, producers and exporters also report a normal season. The president of APECO, Lina Arrieta said, "we are happy with how the season has developed so far. We still hope to achieve the initial export estimate of nearly 11,500 boxes of table grapes."

Arrieta said that they had sent nine ships (about 1 million cases of some fresh each) from the Port of Caldera to date and that they expected to make another important number of shipments from the ports of Coquimbo and San Antonio in the coming weeks.

The representative also said the sector had had a recovery after the rains of 2015, but that there still were sectors and producers that hadn't completely recovered. She also said that the area was planning to have an important varietal change because producers and exporters were betting on having a higher performance fruit and less competition.

"Many are changing the Red Globe and Flame varieties for other varieties, mainly due to the competition and because they want to bet on a higher yielding and sweeter fruit," she said.

The main new varieties that have been planted in the Valley are: Arra 15, Timco, Allison, and Ralli; as well as the Thompson seedless variety, which has already been established in the country.

"These new varieties have a higher yield per hectare, as they can produce at least 1,500 more boxes per hectare, a very good quality, taste, and turgidity. They also require less labor," Arrieta stated.

Source: SimFRUIT

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