Chile's cherry season started one month ago. This is one of the most important fruits for the Chilean national fruit sector. China is the main destination for Chile's cherries accounting for 91% of the nearly 70 million boxes that the country exports.
However, there is some concern in the sector. Last season, the Chinese agricultural authorities detected, for the first time, the Prunus necrotic ringspot virus (PNRSV) in Chilean cherry shipments. Despite being a normal phytopathogenic virus in cherries, which does not impact humans and has a low impact on the product, shipments from about 15 exporting plants were suspended. Faced with this situation, the unions and the SAG together with their counterparts from the Asian giant began to develop a protocol that involved monitoring the fruit on the ground and in the processing plants in order to send the product to China. The document was published on October 18, days before the season began.
The sector agrees that the protocol is demanding. For example, all plants that want to export must monitor their farms every 15 days, from flowering to harvest, to verify the existence of pests; carry out prospecting work for 10% of the orchard surface with laboratory analysis; remove all plants showing PNRSV and measure again. If the laboratory analysis shows that there is no presence of the virus, the export process can continue with the subsequent additional measurements in the packing process. However, if the virus is detected in two or more varieties, the orchard can't export to China for the rest of the season. That's what concerns exporters.
"We are certainly concerned. We are taking care of the problem, but we must not exaggerate things," stated the president of Fedefruta, Jorge Valenzuela.
There have only been 3 or 4 codes that refer to the virus in a month, Valenzuela stressed. 300 boxes of cherries have been requisitioned, he said. That is a very small percentage considering that a total of 70 million are shipped and that some 10 million boxes have already been dispatched, Fedefruta stated.
As of December 2, a total of 264 plants located from the Metropolitan Region to the south had been authorized by the SAG to export cherries to China. A total of 569 establishments have requested authorization to export cherries to China, 300 of which are located in the north of the country, according to the official SAG registry.
Today, the updated protocol after the Prunus necrotic ringspot virus applies only to China; therefore, the sector is considering diversifying their shipments to other countries if the pathogen is detected in the fruit.