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Andres Ramirez, purchasing director Capespan:

"Frost causes huge catastrophe for Chilean fruit sector"

Last week, the first figures were released on the frost damage in Chile. According to Andres Ramirez, the purchasing director of Capespan, the damage differs per region and per product. "It will take two weeks before it is clear how large the loss is, but I can conclude that the two days of frost in September have ensured a catastrophe for the Chilean fruit sector."

Damage in grape growth

Ramirez estimates that the damage to the fruit sector is around 1 billion dollars and that around 185,000 hectares of ground has suffered damage. In the following six months it is also expected that 150,000 people could lose their jobs. "In particular, stone fruits and kiwi's have been hard hit, with a decrease in plum and apricot production of 60 to 65%. Some apricot growers have lost 70 to 80% of their production. Some cherry varieties have seen no harvest. In some areas the loss is enormous. "According to the latest estimates, 56% of cherries have been lost, 55% of nectarines, 50% of peaches, 65% of plums, 20% of pears, 15% of the grapes, 15% of blue berries, 10% of the apples and 10% of avocados. All in all in the season 2013/2014, 60 to 70 million boxes of fruit will not be exported." 

The purchasing director said that there were two days of frost in Chile. "Frost is very normal in Chile, there is always frost of minus 1 or 2 which lasts for an hour. Now it was even colder, reaching minus 3 and lasting more than 5 hours at a time. There was nothing which could be done. Experts compared the damage to the severe earthquake of 2010 and as the damage is comparable, the people in Chile are calling it the "white earthquake" because of the frost. Some growers have almost nothing to harvest and can only wait for the next production. It is really hard."

Damage in the grapes
Ramirez visited Chile last week where his focus was on grapes. "It was reported that from the 105 million boxes normally produced, they had lost 15%. Early varieties such as Sugraone, Flame and Thomson were the worst affected. There was less damage for the varieties which are harvested later, but this also differs per region. It was mainly the areas around Santiago Metropolis who had the most problem with the frost. The centre and south were the worst hit. It is presumed to be not so bad in the North, but there are problems with severe drought, in particular in the Ovalle region, where they are short of water and there is a large area of citrus and grape harvest which could be heavily hit and lost."

Damage in cherry crops
There are currently no products from Chile in Europe. "We are talking about waiting until January/February for fruit to be here. We are pleased that our suppliers are spread throughout Chile since some cannot deliver what we asked for, but other volumes will compensate. Next to that, is the difficulty of predicting how the market will react. Everybody is speculating on high prices since they know we will be short. It is now too early to say, but from the first batch of grapes we know there will be fewer. The varieties which are plucked later will have the quality well controlled to see if they are suitable for far destinations. We therefore don't know what will be the volume and to which markets they shall go, but the coming months will tell." 

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