The economic and logistical consequences of the expansion of COVID-19 have hit world agriculture, hindering its implementation, and interrupting global export flows. However, according to researcher and international expert Jorge Retamales, the health crisis hasn't had significant effects on Chile's fruit production because the country had carried out most of its harvests before the restrictions due to the pandemic started to be applied, with the exception of some late apple, kiwi, and walnut fruits that are mainly harvested mechanically.
However, Retamales predicts that, in the long term, the global recession could reduce the demand for fruit in the destination markets, which could affect both volumes and prices.
Faced with this new world scenario, Retamales said, "... there should be changes at the fruit production and marketing levels. Even though researchers believe that the possibility of contagion of this virus through the manipulation of the fruit is low, in the future consumers in the markets of the northern hemisphere could place greater demands on the manipulation and packaging of the fruit."
"This would require an additional effort and it would increase costs in cleaning protocols and inform consumers about the actions taken in the different phases of the fruit export process (traceability). Operators will have to make an effort to maintain their distance from other people when harvesting and packing the fruit; this could increase costs or reduce the capacity of fruit delivery for export. When the product is marketed, consumers should be informed of all the measures that were taken so that it reaches its destination in optimal conditions. They should be given all the information regarding the practices and processes implemented in the different phases of the export chain," he stressed.
Regarding the Chilean blueberry industry, the expert said: “It had already been losing competitiveness in recent years with the strong breakthrough of Peru in international markets. Due to the negative impact of COVID-19, the demand for this product in the markets that buy our blueberries (China, the USA, Europe) could decrease as supply increases, so there would be a reduction in prices and an increase in market demands. That could mean lower returns for producers, which means some of them would be working at a loss.”