Chilean walnuts, almonds to crack new export record in 2012-13
The USDA’s Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report highlighted Chilean walnut growers had adopted improved technologies such as modern pruning techniques and drip irrigation, while the use of a chemical called “retain” has eliminated the alternate bearing effect of production.
Walnut exports are set to grow by 13.5% to 42,000 metric tons (MT), following a successful 2011-12 season when export values rose by a rate that wase 10 percentage points higher than the 35% growth in volumes.
“Weather during last winter has been favorable for a good production but many producing areas could be affected by drought,” the report warned.
The crop is grown from the III (Atacama) region all the way down to the IX (Araucania) region, with the IV (Coquimbo) region accounting for the most plantings in recent years.
“Total planted area has doubled during the last five years, reaching a total of almost 30,000 hectares,” the report said.
The report attributed the main drivers of this growth in plantations as the deterioration in profitability for alternative fruit crops, and relatively good returns for walnut producers.
It is expected this growth will continue, especially in light of the country’s labor shortages and the fact walnut production can be mechanized.
The country’s most important in-shell walnut export market is Turkey, followed by the U.A.E., Italy and Brazil, while for shelled walnuts the leading buyers are Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.
Chile’s almond shipments are set to grow by 16.3% to 10,700MT in the 2012-13 season, after a year of growth in 2011-12 despite a cold 2011 winter.
The country’s almond plantations start in the same northern region as walnuts but do not extend as far south, going only as far as the VIII (Biobio) region. Like walnuts, the largest amount of new planted orchards are in the IV (Coquimbo) region.
“Although Chile has no special advantage in almond production, industry sources indicate that in the next five to seven years an estimated 500 hectares will be planted every year,” the report said.
“Out of this total approximately 100 hectares will replace old aging orchards and 400 hectares will correspond to new-planted area.”
It is expected total planted area in Chile will not exceed 15,000 hectares, as the crop competes with avocados and citrus for the best production land.
The report said most almonds are exported as shelled and sent to markets where the country has tariff preferences, such as Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.