I’m looking forward to the Midwest Produce Expo that opens today, followed by the U.S. Apple Association Marketing Conference on Thursday and Friday.
As I scan headlines from the web this morning, I see the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a new report on Chilean stone fruit.
While the general perception is that stone fruit is fading in Chile, the report indicates that while growers have been pulling out some blocks of fruit, they have been replanting orchards with greater density and yields.
What’s more, weather conditions seem to favor a bounce-back year for peaches and nectarines. Cherry output has been rising recently, despite disappointments in deliverable volume because of weather events and the fragility of the fruit. In this passage the USDA report details some of the particulars behind the unstoppable cherry push:
The cherry production area continues to expand significantly every year. Industry sources have indicated that during last few years between 1,500 to 2,500 hectares yearly have been planted, totaling almost 18,000 hectares today. Close to 40 percent of the total planted area is still not in production or is in the incremental stage of production. As a result cherry production should increase significantly during the next few years if we have favorable weather patterns. Cherries are one of the few fruits that producers are increasing their planted area significantly in spite of the continued fall of the dollar value against the peso which is hurting the fresh fruit industry in general by increasing production costs which are in pesos and diminishing returns which are in dollars. Producers have expanded the production period by introducing more weather resistant varieties and planting these further south.
The main varieties planted are Bing, Sweet Heart and Santina which together represent over 88 percent of the total cherries exported. Among the main new-planted varieties are Lapins, Van, Stella and Summit. A total of over 70 varieties are planted in Chile.
Although Chile has great potential for cherry production, every year the total output is affected by both climatic factors and/or the extreme delicacy of the fruit. A pre-harvest rain or other adverse weather conditions can damage the delicate skin of the fruit. These factors make the fruit production very expensive, as it requires extreme care and specialized labor. The harvest can only be done by hand; there is no mechanization. Chile has great potential because it is one of the few countries that can produce off season in the southern hemisphere for the large quantity of consumers of the northern hemisphere. Chile has an advantage over other countries like South Africa where there is cheap labor, but average temperatures are too high. New Zealand does not have enough suitable land for cherry production and Australia has water problems. Chile produces 2 percent of total world production but it meets almost 80 percent of the off-season demand.