Supply has exceeded demand for Chilean cherries so far and the US market has been “challenging to say the least here at the beginning of season,” said Tony Supino of Summit Produce. Quality has been hit and miss on imports and the market has been soft. Summit Produce is owned by growers of Gesex, located in Santiago, Chile.
Cherries are a somewhat new item as far as volume for Gesex – Supino says they’ll probably bring ten containers into the US. “They’ll send a lot more than that to the Far East.” Fruit that’s brought in is already spoken for in the programs they have in place, yet he says prices are a bit off so far. “It’s challenging in the US to get a consumer to pay $6 – 8/lb. for Brooks. Very challenging.” Bing will be the next variety imported. It’s these varieties that Supino says have better staying power and a better shelf life. “That certainly helps. There’s been such a movement in the last few years to buy local that not only are we off season but it’s an import product and imperfections on an imported product are looked at more harshly than they would be (locally),” he said, which adds to the challenge.
Additionally, everything is two weeks earlier this year from Chile, which also means the season will wrap up fairly quickly – likely the first week of January when normally it extends longer into the month. “Retailers are normally looking for cherries (at a certain time) and we were asking them to push cherries in November this year. Timing also plays a role,” said Supino. Retailers have to modify their schedules to be able to receive the produce. “Some may react quickly – but the larger chains might not be so quick to react. Everything changes.” Summit’s produce is already committed to retailers but Supino hopes that for the rest of the industry, now that hopefully the market has had time to react, and with better varieties that things will turn around.
Supino is also working on bringing in apricots and nectarines. “I’ll have promotable apricots for the next three weeks,” he said. “Everything’s going to hit a bit earlier this year. Normally programs have historically started the first week of Jan but everything is being pushed forward. I think this tree fruit season is going to come and go pretty quickly.”
For more information: