Chile’s Ministry of Agriculture says fruit exports are projected to fall by 22 per cent in 2013/14 as a result of the recent freeze. Releasing the first official damage estimates, Agriculture Minister Luis Mayol and Office of Agricultural Research and Policy (ODEPA) director Gustavo Rojas said on Tuesday that US$823m would be wiped off the industry’s export value in the coming season representing 62m cartons of fruit. Grower returns are expected to drop to US$411m. Kiwifruit and almonds were the worst hit crops, losing 60 per cent and 50 per cent of the harvest respectively.
Mayol admitted the situation was worrying, but called for patience while the true impact of the freeze was accurately assessed. He said the frost had had little effect on prices so far, and while it was likely to impact on the market in December, this would only be across some products.
Mayol also highlighted some of the measures put in place by the government to help the sector. These include up to 6,000 growers in Regions III to VII being awarded compensatory bonds for replanting, and an incentive scheme to attract additional workers – especially women – to work in damaged plantations.
Separately, the Chilean Blueberry Commission says the latest estimates point to an overall fall of 8 per cent in production in 2013/14. However blueberry exports are still forecast to increase by 7 per cent on last season's total of 93,000 tonnes. The commission said the hardest hit areas were the Metropolitan Region, and Regions V and VI where many early varieties are located and where flowering had already begun. As a result, it is expected that volumes of early fruit will fall and be delayed.