( File photo )

Planting area and exports continue to fall for Argentina apple and pear producers, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

The semi-annual fresh deciduous fruit report from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service said that although 2018-19 Argentina production levels will rise higher than initial estimates to 590,000 metric tons for apples and 600,000 metric tons for pears, output remain below historical levels as planted area continues to fall.

“Exports are forecast to fall below official estimates to 90,000 metric tons for apples and 290,000 metric tons for pears due to strong external competition and falling competitiveness in the global market,” the report said.

The report said apple and pear production is concentrated in Patagonia’s Upper Valley of the provinces of Rio Negro (85%) and Neuquen (12%)%. 

“Argentina’s fruit producers continue to battle a host of production issues that threaten the long-term viability of the industry,” the report said, citing falling currency values, export tax policies and rising input costs for labor and energy.

Growers lack money to maintain their orchards, according to the report, and in 2017-18 between 30% to 40% of apple and pear orchards were not pruned.