Reining in a diverse industry under one set of quality standards is a major goal of the new Chilean Kiwifruit Committee, which was formed with the assistance and support of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Chilean Exporters Association (ASOEX) and the Chilean Fruit Growers Federation (Fedefruta).
Ronald Bown, chairman of ASOEX, cited a need for cohesion in Chile’s kiwifruit industry is longstanding and the foundation of the group.
“The Chileans have made a substantial commitment to kiwifruit,” said Tom Tjerandsen, managing director for North America for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, Sonoma, Calif.
Tjerandsen said more than 80% of Chilean exporters are members of the new committee.
“The reason for forming this is that they recognize to be successful and grow the kiwi market in North America, they have to have a very competitive product so that working internally to establishing rigorous standards to ensure only thee best product arrives at our shores,” Tjerandsen said.
Chile is just completing its first season with the committee in place, and overall, everything went smoothly, Tjerandsen said.
“It worked fine,” he said. “You always wonder if the standards that have been established are going to be recognized and adhered to and that has been the case. That was encouraging. All these standards and requirements that exceed the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) regulations are voluntary. That is something that they needed to carefully monitor.”
Much of the committee’s mission is centered on the maturity of the fruit before it is harvested, Tjerandsen said.
“The spotlight has been focused particularly on early season fruit, which has been the most problematic,” he said. “The growers everywhere take a look at prices and window of opportunity and take advantage of those prices. The Chilean growers waited this year to ensure sufficient quality to enhance the reputation for Chile’s fruit to export.”
The most daunting hurdle in any such concept is attaining universal participation, Tjerandsen said.
“I think really the principal challenge was confirming discipline among growers to adhere to these rigorous standards,” he said.
But, the industry responded, he said.
“It turned out not to be the problem they had feared,” he said.
Tjerandsen added some U.S. retailers were a bit apprehensive, but those fears were quickly quelled.
“It’s the same challenge that navel oranges from Chile had faced — some retailers sat back waiting to see if Chile could reach a balance between acid and brix and particularly in light of a very robust market for navels because of California ending early.“There were retailers who sat back and missed out on substantial early profits because the growers did have the discipline and the oranges coming north that were fully competitive with the California fruit,” Tjerandsen said. “Retailers remembered that and so we’re going to see that, particularly in the early season, coming north the fruit will meet or exceed retailer expectations.”