Chile: "Supplying a 'hungry' market for cherries and, at the same time, finding new markets is quite a challenge"
As Chilean cherries, blueberries and soon table grapes make their way to world markets, recovery from the pandemic, as well as the global economic crisis, remain concerns for the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (Asoex). According to Iván Marambio, its president: “The threat of the pandemic is still present. Although we have seen the lifting of some restrictions at the local level and in markets in the northern hemisphere, China maintains some strict restrictions, which we hope will not translate into the closure of cities or the paralysis of ports.
The expert affirms that the recovery of the Chilean economy is slow, “as in other parts of the world, with the threat of a global economic crisis that is still latent. This is likely to affect food consumption, so we are keeping an eye on how the markets evolve and running targeted promotions to keep demand for our fruits active."
Meeting Chinese demand for cherries
Recent Asoex estimates show a significant increase of 20% in cherry exports compared to last season. «The sector has reacted and adjusted its offer to the strong demand for this product, especially in China. The challenge then is to supply a 'hungry' market for the product, especially around the Chinese New Year, and at the same time redouble efforts to develop new markets.”
«The case of the grape is different, which will soon reach the markets, and that of the blueberry as well. Both species expect a decrease in export volumes compared to the previous season and in line with what we have seen in recent seasons. The adaptation of the sector in these cases has focused on the substitution of varieties and today we see positive results from that effort. In the case of grapes, we see how new varieties could boost growth in the coming seasons. In the case of blueberries, this season we are seeing a significant increase in frozen exports, which is due to both market dynamics and the nature of the variety substitution process. This sector is still in a period of adjustment to the new global competitive conditions and we expect it to stabilize and resume growth in the coming years," explains Marambio.
Concern about shipping and input costs
“Fruticulturists and exporters face strong cost pressures. On the one hand, inputs, especially those that have to be imported, such as fertilizers, have experienced significant price increases. On the other hand, they also face increases in the cost of services, where the cost of maritime freight has been the one that has most affected the activity during the last season. This year we expected to see a gradual reduction in local ocean freight prices, in line with what is observed internationally. However, we were surprised by the rates announced by the shipping companies at the beginning of the season. Although a decrease in tariffs is expected by the end of December, we have indicated that these tariffs put the viability of the fruit sector at risk, the second largest export sector in our country, after copper," says Marambio.
Market access, key priority
Despite Chile's success in the Chinese and US markets, market access remains a key priority for its growing exports. “During this season we will focus on improving market access conditions for our fruits. Thus, for example, we hope that the Systems Approach will be approved by the end of this season so that the grapes produced in the central-north zone of our country can enter the US market without the fumigation requirement, which will undoubtedly boost the competitiveness of our exports to that market.
Marambio once again focuses its attention on the Cherry Express and Blueberry Express vessels, both answers and part of its efforts to work with the Government and the sector, ensuring the movement of thousands of containers of Chilean cherries and blueberries in world markets.
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