Cherry production consolidated itself in Mendoza as an attractive business. According to estimates, this year's production could increase by 15% -i.e. almost 600 tons more than last season- thanks to the entry into production of the new plantings made four or five years ago, and because other recent orchards will reach their full production.
The province of Mendoza has 700 hectares devoted to producing cherries. In 2020 the production ranged between 4,000 and 4,500 tons. Nearly 1,500 tons were sent to the industry (basically for maraschino) and 3,000 tons were destined for fresh consumption (part of that was exported).
"Fresh cherries are one of the few sectors within the fruit growing sector that can grow in the short and medium term. With planning, it can also continue growing much more in the long term," said Diego Aguilar, the president of the Mendoza Cherry Chamber. He also said that Argentina wanted to differentiate itself from Chile (the main competitor) by offering early fruit of excellent quality to cover the unsatisfied demand of the main consuming countries of the northern hemisphere, such as China.
According to Carolina Johnson, an agronomist who works in cherries, Mendoza had the ideal conditions to grow this crop thanks to its great thermal amplitude, cold hours, altitude, and solar radiation. These factors allow producers to harvest their cherry fruits before the same variety is harvested in other provinces or in Chile.
“The surface and production increased in Patagonia thanks to large investment capitals, but their fruits enter the market later. We have to take advantage of the fact that our cherries come out earlier,” he said.
Aguilar said the flowering seemed to start a week earlier than expected in the Maipu and Luján area, but that it started at its normally in the East and Uco Valley. "There is a risk of frost at this time of year. A temperature of -3° C can affect more than 30% of the crops if the phenological state of the plants is in full flower or fruit set," he said.
In fact, late frosts, together with the lack of water and insecurity, are one of the main concerns of the sector.
Juan Martinez, the treasurer of the Union Frutihortícola Argentina (Ufha) and a producer of cherries, said they should have moderate expectations because of the lack of water caused by the current drought. "The dry climate exposes us more to a frost that could ruin everything," he stressed.
He also recommended waiting to know if there will be enough labor available for the harvest, which is not mechanized due to the fragility of the fruit. Another difficulty, he said, is that thefts generate large losses.