The weather system that affected Chile in the first days of February left a scene of destruction of road infrastructure in its wake. Most importantly, there is much damage to agricultural crops. The Federation of Fruit Producers, Fedefruta, detected an estimated damage of 53% in mid-season table grape varieties and 30% damage in volume per hectare at harvest of stone fruit (plums, peaches and nectarines).
In the case of blueberries, its cadastre detected 32% damage in what was left to work in the orchards, mainly from the Ñuble region to the south of the country.
Isabel Urrutia, from IQonsulting, talked about the scope and magnitude of the impact on blueberry crops of this ‘agricultural catastrophe’.
What are the areas, varieties or processes most affected?
Ms Urrutia: In blueberries, damage was reported from the Maule Region to Araucanía, with different intensity. In the case of Maule, damages were recorded due to rain and in some specific cases hail. This region was in the final third of its season, with volumes already declining. The most affected varieties were mainly Brightwell, and to a lesser extent Tifblue and Ochlockonee.
In Ñuble and Biobío the intensity of the rain was lower, but in the same way damages were reported in the same varieties mentioned above. In Araucanía, damage was reported in specific sectors, the area around Temuco, Victoria and Gorbea being the most affected. In this case, Legacy, which was at the end of its season, was affected and to a lesser extent other varieties such as Brigitta and Elliot. Meanwhile, in the southern zone the season progresses normally, with no major damage reported.
Is an adjustment to the projection of the season reassessed?
Ms Urrutia: Despite the intensity of the rains, it is important to put the advance of the blueberry season into context. Until week 4, the export advance compared to the initial estimate (111.500 tons) was 88%, leaving around 13.500 tons to be exported. Therefore, the impact of the rains occurs in a smaller portion of the remaining volume, mainly in the exports of week 5, due to the cleaning of the orchards and to a lesser extent at the end of the season, associated with those orchards that they definitely closed the season after these events.
The Chilean blueberry industry represents a national area of more than 18.000 hectares of blueberries planted in the different regions of the country, and according to official figures from the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture, more than 30% of this area is located in the Maule region, the most affected by the past frontal system.