Cherry exports amounted to 180,000 tons, which means shipments increased by 126%. Even though the table grape's year was complex in terms of price, Fedefruta is expectant to see what happens in 2019, as the inventory of this fruit in the US has tended to normalize in the last few days, after months of a record overstock in said market.
"The value of fruit exports in 2018 exceeds 5.5 billion dollars FOB, the largest amount that our industry has achieved in an annual cycle," said the president of Fedefruta, Jorge Valenzuela, who also said there had been an increase in shipments of stone fruits, such as plums, nectarines, and peaches, and citrus fruits, such as mandarins and clementines.
According to data from ODEPA and its latest Fruit Bulletin, the volume of fruit exported in 2018 increased by 10.8% when compared to 2017. This, because last year the country exported more than 2.9 million tons of fruit abroad while in 2017 it exported 2.65 million tons. The main export product was the apple, with more than 776 thousand tons, relegating table grapes again to the second place, with 724 thousand tons. Cherries ranked third with 185 thousand tons.
"The value of fruit exports in 2018 exceeded 5.5 billion dollars FOB, the highest that our industry has seen in an annual cycle," said the president of Fedefruta, Jorge Valenzuela. "We are experiencing an increase in exports of high-value fruits, such as cherries and blueberries, a phenomenon that would explain the rise in the shipment values."
2018 was marked by the increase in the export volume of cherries, a species whose shipments grew by an impressive 126.7%, from 82 thousand tons in 2017 to 185 thousand in 2018.
"As a result of this increase, cherries have become the third most important Chilean fruit export in terms of volumes, after apples and table grapes, displacing kiwis and avocados," Valenzuela stated. This, he said, was due, among other things, to the exceptional climatic conditions in spring of 2017 prior to the harvest, which allowed the nearly 36 thousand hectares of this fruit to reach their maximum potential in productive terms. "There were adequate cold hours and no unusual weather events such as rains in spring or summer, and that facilitated achieving the aforementioned volume."
Fedefruta estimates that the volume in 2019 may be lower, "given that the spring of 2018 was too unstable from the climatic point of view. The fluctuation in temperatures has not allowed the cherry trees to reach their productive potential again, and the hail destroyed crops and compromised damaged hectares in the most affected areas," he added.
Table grape exports increased by 20 thousand tons in 2018, i.e. + 2.8%, which wasn't enough to surpass the 776 thousand tons of apple shipped in the year.
The table grape sector is expectant about the situation of the Chilean table grape in the United States, a market that had a historical oversupply - up to 33% by the end of October -, which made producer fear prices would drop. This scenario, caused by the commercial war between the US and China, which didn't allow California to export its grapes so they remained for local consumption, has taken a positive turn in recent days after the USDA reported a significant reduction in stock, which went from more than 18 million boxes in October, to 1.5 million at the end of December.
"It remains to be seen how we will work our shipments, faced with the recovery of table grape volumes in Peru," Valenzuela said. "Faced with this reality, the challenge is to run storage programs for our late or mid-season fruit so we can export it as late as possible and, hopefully, find ourselves with a clearer market."
Shipments of citrus and stone fruits increased in 2018
The export volume of some stone fruits, other than cherry, was also outstanding. Plum shipments, for example, increased by 29.3%, going from 97 thousand tons in 2017 to 120 thousand tons in 2018.
Meanwhile, nectarine exports increased by 10.4% (from 59 thousand to 65 thousand tons), in a year driven by shipments to China following the entry protocol signed at the end of 2016. In 2017 the country exported 7,600 tons of nectarines to China, while in 2018 it shipped more than 16,500 tons to that destination. Meanwhile, peach exports increased by 30.1%, as they went from 24 thousand to 31 thousand tons.
In 2018 the country exported 170,000 tons of mandarins and clementines, i.e. 45.6% more than in 2017.
Finally, avocado exports in 2018 amounted to 132 thousand tons, 25.2% less than in 2017, due to the strengthening of the Chilean market for this product, as well as to the climatic conditions that marked the harvest.