Agronometrics In Charts: Start of the Chilean cherry season riddled with challenges
The Chilean Cherry Committee, which represents more than 85 percent of global Chilean cherry exports, recently revised its estimate for the 2023-2024 season. Unforeseen climatic events, including heavy rains and the El Niño phenomenon, have caused a reduction of 14,6 percent compared to the initial forecast in October, which stood at 81.477.564 million boxes (5 kilos each). The 2022-2023 season closed with 83 million boxes exported while the planted area reached 61.599 hectares (ha).
“It is important to make it clear that this season it has not been easy to estimate volumes, due to the effects of climate change and the El Niño phenomenon, which has caused volumes to vary week to week. The forecast will evolve as the season progresses and the effects of the latest rains on the ground are evaluated,” says Claudia Soler, executive director of the Chilean Cherry Committee.
In addition to climate-related challenges, the Chilean cherry industry faces logistical obstacles, including the recent collapse of Chile's automated Customs system. Fedefruta, Chile's fruit growers federation, expressed concern about possible delays in shipments, emphasizing the critical need for rapid transportation to maintain the condition of the fruit. Additionally, a labor strike initiated by temporary port workers in San Antonio presents another formidable obstacle, carrying potential ramifications for refrigerated container loading. Growers are closely monitoring the developing situation to assess its potential impact on the timely transportation of cherries.
The peak week for global exports, identified as Week 51 (December 18 to 24), remains unchanged. Soler highlighted that, despite the drop in volumes, the industry is focused on meeting global demand with the expected quality and condition. The strong demand seen in international markets, combined with an unwavering commitment to shipping top-quality fruit, has generated a sense of confidence in a favorable outcome for the current season.
Over the last decade, global cherry export volume has increased by 120 percent, with Chile playing a fundamental role. Currently, Chile is the world's leading exporter of cherries, contributing 57 percent of total world cherry exports. This remarkable expansion becomes particularly evident when juxtaposed with the situation two decades ago, when Chilean cherries represented just 9 percent of total global cherry exports. According to data from the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture, the Maule region has 27.818 ha or 45,2 percent of the planted area in Chile, making it the region with the highest production in Chile. The O'Higgins region, located in the central area of the country, has 22.966 hectares of planted area and represents 37,3 percent of the total planted area.
Karen Brux, General Director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA), highlighted the importance of investing in retail programs to raise awareness among retailers about the availability of Chilean cherries during the winter months. Along with this effort, the association has formulated plans to engage directly with consumers through various channels, including social media platforms and a monthly newsletter. These strategic initiatives have been designed to disseminate relevant marketing information and obtain updates in the US market.
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All US domestic agricultural commodity prices represent the spot market at the point of shipping (i.e. climate-controlled packing house/warehouse, etc.). For imported fruit, price data represents the spot market at the port of entry.
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