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Chile: Rain causes few losses in the north but Aconcagua Valley hit

According to a report by the Association of Fruit Exporters of Chile AG (Asoex), the rains generated few losses, especially in table grapes, in the regions of Atacama and Coquimbo, and somewhat higher losses in the region of Valparaiso, specifically in the Aconcagua Valley.

According to Asoex, the table grape harvest in the Valley of Copiapo had to be interrupted for a few days after the rains, because the soil conditions made it difficult for workers to continue this task. The harvest and packaging of the fruit was resumed on Tuesday in the middle and upper part of the valley.

"Regarding the fruit's condition after the rains, we've observed some partings in the Flame variety that is grown in the middle and upper part of the valley. This situation is a bit more noticeable in the lower area and it will require making a major cleaning of clusters in their packing, as well as applications in some crops," said the president of the Association of Agricultural Producers and Exporters of the Valley of Copiapo (APECO), Lina Arrieta.

Arrieta said the rains had caused downspouts from the hills, which had an impact on the turbidity of the Copiapo River, which is why the irrigation channels were temporarily closed. These irrigators are slowly being opened again. Meanwhile, well water irrigators had none of these issues.

"Another situation that worries us now are the high temperatures announced yesterday, as the fruit ripens faster than the growth of berries," she said.

Moreover, according to information from the Northern Agricultural Society (SAN), there were no losses reported in the region of Coquimbo, even in those places where there was up to 5 mm of rainfall recorded.

Ronald Bown, the president of ASOEX, highlighted that the rains had also resulted in an increased availability of irrigation water in the area, which has been affected by a serious drought for several years.

Aconcagua Valley
Regarding the progress of the table grape harvest in the Aconcagua Valley, the report states that the most affected area was San Esteban, as it received more than 50 mm of rainfall that affected the color and caused partings in the grapes that were ready to be harvested in the week of Christmas, particularly of the Flame and Superior varieties. Producers have also found fruit partings in the Flame varieties in San Felipe and its surroundings.

In this regard, the president of Asoex said they still didn't have an exact figure on the losses in the Aconcagua Valley, but that they knew that they wouldn't be low.

He also said that they had begun to make applications since Tuesday to avoid rot in the fruit that was going to be harvested starting the second half of December, as in the high temperatures also advanced their harvest.

"We've observed that the country's harvest was advanced by more than a week in the white varieties, which led to a lower amount of clusters than last year and a decrease in calibers," said Bown.

The report also notes that there were no major damages on vines, cherries, and blueberries in other parts of the country.

This season will be similar to the last season
"Chile exported more than 85 million boxes of table grapes to different markets during the last season, so we thought we would reach 90 million boxes this season. However, we believe we'll achieve a similar volume of shipments to last season due to different events, such as the recent rains, the lower sprouting of white varieties, such as the Thompson and Superior varieties, a decrease of clusters per plant, and the advance of the harvest, which results in a decrease in cluster weight and yield per hectare. That is , of course, unless there is a new phenomena," said the chairman of Asoex's Table Grape Committee, Fernando Sat.

Sat said Chile currently had a large number of hectares planted with new varieties that still hadn't expressed their full potential. "These new varieties could compensate for the losses or decreases there's been in other varieties. They are fantastic, because they generally have a better performance, size, color, management regarding labour hours, and they are very sweet. In the last three to five years, Chile's grape sector has experienced the largest varietal turnover in its history; something that will undoubtedly allow the country to achieve large volumes within 5 years. A new variety can produce 4,000 boxes per hectare, and there are over a hundred new varieties planted in the country," he said.

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