For the second straight year, Chile has been hit with unusually cold fall weather, but damage should be much lighter than last year.
Temperatures dipped into the 27- to 29-degree range for three or four hours on Oct. 9, said John Pandol, special projects director for Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Bros. Inc.
The unexpected sub-freezing temperatures were recorded in and south of the Molina growing area, about 150 miles south of Santiago, Pandol said.
The main crop in the area is blueberries, followed by apples, kiwifruit and cherries.
Karen Brux, managing director of the San Carlos, Calif.-based Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, said the first news out of Chile after the freezes was far from accurate.
“Although we’re still assessing the situation, initial reports of damage related to the freeze were grossly exaggerated and reflective of one grower’s situation, not the entire industry,” Brux said. “There is certainly some damage, but not to the extent that was reported, and nothing similar to what Chile faced in 2013.”
Chilean shippers and industry officials are positive about the outlook for 2014-15, Brux said.
“We anticipate solid volume increases across all commodities and are busy putting promotion plans in place with retailers.”
While there’s likely some damage, Pandol said, a lot depends on where fruit was grown. And more time is needed for accurate estimates.
“Depending on if you’re in a low spot or high spot or happened to have irrigated. At this time in the production cycle it takes more than a week to know what will recover and how it will look.”
Pandol also cautioned that the first damage reports are “usually greatly exaggerated.”
“None of Pandol’s blueberry growers in the region have advised us to change plans at this point, and until we hear different, Pandol is proceeding with the original volumes and timings,” he said.
Freezes in September 2013 in Chile caused substantial losses to some crops. Kiwifruit, stone fruit and pears were among those hardest-hit.