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Argentina: Drastic drop in Rio Negro's fruit production

Small and medium sized producers from the valley of Rio Negro are concerned about the harvest and about how much good fruit there will be. There is uncertainty, but producers are sure that the frost, the hail, and the health problems will cause a drastic drop in production.

"We do not know how much the production will decline, but we believe it will be an important amount because this year's frost and hail hit us very hard. There are producers in the Middle Valley, in the area of Cinco Saltos, and in Campo Grande, on the east side, that had total losses: others were down by 30% to 40%. Much fruit on the plants is battered, it has marks and can only be used for industry," said the president of the Chamber of Roca, Jose Garcia.

The leader of the Chamber of Huergo, Marcelo Coriolani, agreed and added that the situation was made more critical because of the codling moth. "It's an ongoing struggle, in addition to the climate issue. The economic situation has not changed and it makes it very difficult to deal with the health issue," he said.

The abandoned lots and unproductive farms complicate matters. "Today, producers must use more applications because the plague's pressure is very high, there are abandoned sectors and nothing was done to clean them. None of the plants were uprooted, as had been promised," producers said.

"The Ministry of Fruit Production asked the Federation of Producers and each chamber for an estimate of the damage, so they do have that data, but we do not know if they will present this year's harvest forecast," said Garcia, puzzled. The leader of the Chambers of the East is concerned because, at this stage of the season, everything is really behind schedule. It not even has been called the Bureau of Contractualization. "

In the coming weeks producers will discuss wage increases with rural workers, however, they believe it will be a complicated issue, especially because "we believe there will be fewer working days this season. I think it will be an extremely short season for us, and for the packaging sector."

Some unions, like el Hielo, have already begun negotiating, but they've also warned about the action they would take if the discussion becomes bogged down.

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