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Chile: Cherry producers worried about the rain and the sun

On Sunday, there still was no official evaluation of the damage suffered by cherry orchards from the heavy rains on Friday and Saturday. However, according to experts, such as consultant Elena Yanez, orchards managers, such as Gustavo Castillo from Lomas de QuinchamalĂ­, or buyers like Teresa Gazmuri of Commercial QuinchamalĂ­, the situation is complicated for producers because similar rains, of 20 mm in Coihueco, San Carlos, and the rest of the province, have previously caused major problems.

The unseasonable rainfall broke the successful cycle that cherries were having, with good export prices, right at the beginning of the harvest. Ripe cherry is generally sensitive to rain, as it has an osmosis problem caused by sugar accumulation and the fruit breaks with the rain.

Yesterday, producers evaluated the damage and Elena Yanez, an agronomist who specializes in producing cherries for export who works as a consultant for other producers in the province, said that she had already seen some damage in the Lapins variety in her orchards located in Coihueco.

She said that "the rain has clearly caused damage to the ripe cherries, with the exception of the Regina and Cordia varieties, which do not present major problems. These varieties are genetically more resistant to rain."

She also stated that this problem took place at a time when the export market was favorable, with guaranteed prices of $1,300 per kilo, which is good, as by the end of the harvest there would be a reassessment of up to US $2 more, especially in the varieties that are more resistant and arrive in better condition to the markets when shipped by sea.

She then stated that producers were specially interested in shipping their fruits on time for the Chinese New Year, which is celebrated in late January and has high prices. "Maritime transport companies have made special arrangements to lower the shipping time from four to three weeks to reach that market," she said. She also said that, up until this rain, the weather had been good to the crop, with some exceptions due to frost.

Gustavo Castillo, who is in charge of the orchards of Lomas de QuinchamalĂ­, agreed that this weekend's rain would bring losses to the cherry sector. He said that they had applied an organic product, which is extracted from the layer that protects blueberries from the climate, to the orchards he manages and that they would know the real effect the rains had on the crop in the next few days. "These situations increase costs because we are required to make applications. In addition, I can say we've detected damages in the Star and O'Neil blueberry varieties," he said.

Teresa Gazmuri and Gabriela Zuniga, executives at Commercial Quinchamali, also estimated that the damage caused by the rains in the area Quinchamali is great, as purchases had just started and the rains were especially harmful to the corazon de Paloma variety, which is the their most popular variety. They said they still had not made an assessment, but that they hadn't seen a storm like the one they had on Friday night for years.

The municipal authorities from Quillon, which is also an area where small farmers produce cherries for domestic consumption or industrial exports, said that they would evaluate the situation on Monday to see what measures can be taken. 

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