The fruit export sector of Chile is busy assessing any potential damage that raging wildfires could have caused in the 7th largest production area in the south-central part of the country around the Chillan city in the Bío Bío region and Nuble province, where apples, blueberry, cherries and some table grapes and other fruit are grown.
Overview of active fires in south-central Chile for the past 24 hours. Feb. 6, 2023. NASA FIRMS.
Over 270 fires have been burning since the weekend, with some suspected arsonists arrested according to Chile’s government. About 276 000 hectares of mainly forestry and wine production areas have been burned, while 24 people have been killed and over 1 000 houses destroyed. A state of emergency has been declared in the most affected areas as soaring temperatures and high winds drive the fires even further.
"Some cherry and apple test plots in Chillan, Los Angeles and the Collipulli area, who are all in and around the path of the fires, will be inspected this week to assess the extent of the damage industry," commented Lorena Pinto, Product Manager and an evaluator at ANAChile, a variety and evaluation company with test plots in major fruit production areas in Chile.
The fires comes amidst a heatwave and what is termed as “mega-drought” conditions in Chile that have lasted for the past decade. According to Pinto the heat wave, come the height of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, which is impacting the last blueberry, apple and pear crops. “The heat wave is impacting heavily the last blueberry, apple and pear crops. The cherries are already harvested in Chile, even in the latest areas, but the heatwave increase the incidence of double fruits and suture for next year.”
According to Fruits from Chile 74 393 tons of fruit is exported from the Bío Bío Region, as the 7th largest exporting region it represents 3% of the countries fruit exports. About 37 729 tons of apples, 24 833 tons of blueberries, 6 860 tons of kiwi fruit, 3 659 tons of cherries, 1 055 tons of pears and 90 tons of table grapes are exported from this region. Small volumes of plums, nectarines, peaches and citrus are also grown in the region.
"Some blueberry and apple growers from the affected region commented that the heatwave in the area is speeding up the ripening of apples by five days and the ripeness of blueberries by one week," Pinto conluded.
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