(UPDATED COVERAGE, Oct. 10) A series of September freezes has likely caused significant damage to several Chilean fruit crops.
An accurate assessment of losses will probably not be available until Oct. 18-20, according to an Oct. 8 news release from the Santiago-based Chilean Fresh Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX).
That said, North American importers should prepare for less product this winter.
“While occasional frosts are not uncommon, such a prolonged period of frost during such a concentrated time period is unprecedented in recent memory,” Ronald Bown, ASOEX’s president, said in the release.
Kiwifruit, apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries and nuts are expected to be among those crops hardest-hit, according to ASOEX and U.S. importers.
Up to 80% of apricots, 65% of kiwifruit and plums and 50% of peaches and nectarines could be lost, according to estimates cited by Craig Padover, stone fruit category manager for Yonkers, N.Y.-based Jac Vandenberg Inc.
But Padover was quick to point out that whatever the losses wind up being, that doesn’t mean shipments to the U.S. will be down proportionally.
“The impact on our market will probably be less,” he said. “They have an incentive to send here if the prices are higher. But we don’t know how it will play out.”
A Chile-based associate of Chris Kragie, deciduous fruit manager for Madera, Calif.-based Western Fresh Marketing, told Kragie that, as of Oct. 9, kiwifruit losses were 40-60% and Asian pears 10-60%, depending on the variety.
Western Fresh has signed up two new Chilean kiwifruit shippers and one new Asian pear shipper for the 2013-14 season, and Kragie hopes that his company’s volumes won’t be down dramatically.
Others, however, may not be as lucky. New Zealand is the only other kiwifruit shipper during Chile’s season, for instance, he said.
Western Fresh is looking into importing more Asian pears from Korea and China to compensate for Chilean losses, Kragie said.
Grapes, apples, blueberries and avocado volumes are expected to be less affected by the freezes, according to ASOEX and importers.
An estimated 15-20% of the early-season blueberries imported by Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group are expected to be lost, said Nolan Quinn, the company’s berry category director.