Chile’s mining industry, led by copper — the country’s No. 1 export — is a factor, Tjerandsen said.
“Copper prices worldwide have been skyrocketing, and copper mining requires an awful lot of water,” he said.
Therefore, he said, mines are buying up water contracts from the agricultural sector.
“It’s actually possible for a grower to make more money selling their water contracts than they can from growing fruit, so the mining industry is competing with the agricultural industry for finite quantities of water,” he said.
The short-term effects of the drought are obvious, marketers said.
The long-term fallout remains an unanswered question, said Doug Meyer, sales and marketing director with Temecula, Calif.-based West Pak Avocado Inc.
“It has hurt certain growers within certain growing regions within Chile and some of those have been affected more than others, depending on water supply and runoff and water collections in those regions, but to my knowledge, there hasn’t been a longterm strategic plan on longterm viability of the Chilean market and Chilean avocados to the U.S.,” he said.
The industry is resilient and will get through the dry spell, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing with Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc.
“I think they’re still going through it,” he said.
“They’re hoping El Niño will kick in and play a role because it’s just the start of their rainy season.”