Freeze creates questions about Chilean volume

11/14/2013 02:28:00 PM
David Mitchell

Courtesy Chilean Fresh Fruit AssociationChilean fresh produce exports are expected down 50 million boxes this season due to September freezes.Grower-shippers of Chilean fruit expect severe September freezes to diminish the South American country’s exports by about 50 million boxes in 2013-14.

What no one knows yet is by how much specific commodities will be limited and how North American supplies will be affected.

“Volumes may be down by 30% or more for the fresh markets, depending on the commodities, growers and regions their farms are located,” said Craig Uchizono, vice president of the Southern Hemisphere for Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos.

“The full extent of the damage to the trees will become clearer during harvest,” he said.

Uchizono said Nov. 4 he expects a five- to 10-day delay to the start of season.

He also said, in addition to the freezes, drought is compromising some crops in the northern region of Chile.

Doug Grant, vice president and chief information officer for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, estimated his company’s growers lost 30% of their volume to the freezes.

“The impact varies greatly by item,” Grant said. “While some valleys were spared completely, others had frost in the higher elevations and others lower.”

Grant said damages also varied by stage of blossom, variety and region. He said Oppenheimer growers lost an estimated 60% of their kiwifruit and up to 15% of their grapes. Stone fruit losses ranged from 30% to 70%.

Most of the country’s citrus crop already had been harvested and was unaffected, he said.

Evan Myers, director of imports for The Oppenheimer Group, said cherry volumes could be reduced up to 30%.

Chile is still expected to produce a net increase in that commodity because of expanding acreage.

Setbacks, but solid volumes

“Despite these setbacks, Oppenheimer plans to market solid volumes next season with increased acreage from new and existing Oppenheimer growers,” Grant said.

Despite decreased overall volume, grower-shippers are optimistic U.S. buyers won’t have less Chilean fruit to choose from.

Mario Flores, director of blueberry product management for Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC, said the U.S. market is a priority for Chilean blueberry shippers because the U.S. “can consume the vast majority of Chilean blueberry production at profitable price levels.”

Although early blueberry varieties were diminished by adverse weather, Flores said volume should ramp up by late November.

He said quality has been excellent.


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