San Juan's table grape harvest will start in just two weeks. This year, the sector faces various issues from previous years that have become more acute, stated the vice president of the Federal SME Confederation, Juan Jose Ramos.
One of the problems affecting the industry is the exchange rate arrears. The Government broke its promise to implement a differential dollar to export grapes, like the one used to export soy, and it is not convenient to sell the product at an official exchange rate of $170 when the informal currency for all uses exceeds $300. In addition, the sector is affected by a lack of skilled labor for harvesting. In the past, the sector would harvest its grapes seven days a week; and now, without harvesters, it can barely harvest them 4 or 5 days a week.
The fruit is also against the ropes because of the Lobesia botrana disease. "The pest has spread in the province and it hasn't been controlled yet. SENASA works hard informing producers when they should carry out applications against the pest, but table grape producers must register in the Risk Mitigation System (SMR) and have controlled monitoring to be able to sell inside or outside the country," stated Rodrigo Espindola, an agronomist engineer at INTA. This was lethal for exports to Brazil and, even though the country can now carry them out with certain controls, without bromination, it will be difficult to implement those controls this season.
The logistical problems have also increased because of the war between Russia and Ukraine, Ramos stated. The main cold storage service for export disappeared and producers now resort to the state's cold storage service in May 25. In addition, costs have increased and there are more delays: the boxes of grapes went from taking 35 days to 60 days to arrive at their destination because of the war. "It's going to be very difficult to export this season," Ramos stated.
Seventeen years ago, San Juan exported almost 50 million kilos of grapes to Europe and Brazil, but the sector has languished and last year it only exported 5,400,000 kilos worth 5.2 million dollars, according to the INV. The 2022/23 season, which was affected to an uncertain degree by the frost on November 1, could be worse.