Heavy rainfall and frosts over recent weeks in key Chilean cherry-growing regions have led to a reduction in this season's export forecast, but volumes are still expected to be far higher than last year.
Local media Economiaynegocios.cl reported Chilean Cherry Committee president Cristian Tagle and Decofrut director Manuel José Alcaíno had agreed exports would likely be in the range of 20-21 million boxes this season.
The publication said the estimate put volumes 15-20% higher than last season's 17.8 million boxes, but 'far off' initial estimates and the industry's 'potential' of 32 million.
"The conditions this year were perfect. After winter, the chilling hours for the trees were there, but then we had a very hot spring and that pushed us back on everything. After that the frosts came and now the rains," John Botto, a grower from the O'Higgins region, was quoted as saying.
Botto said this season had now become another difficult one, but added his situation was not as bad as for other growers who had lost a large part of their harvest.
Meanwhile, Tagle reportedly said the outlook for campaign was not too bleak.
"The fruit still looks pretty good on the trees, with good sizings, the orchards seen to be balanced in terms of their load, so we are anticipating a positive season," he was quoted as saying by Economiaynegocios.cl.
"We are hoping that the weather returns to normal and that we stop having these adverse episode of rain or hail and that we can delivery the best possible product to the market. There have already been some arrivals of Chilean fruit to the market and the response has been positive."
He said the worst of the weather had come from the start of September, with 'strong and persistent' frosts causing damage to fruit in key growing areas like Curico, with the Lapins, Sweet Heart and Bing varieties among the most heavily affected.
The damage has caused the industry to 'reduce the [export] estimate by quite a lot', he added.
Tagle explained the recent rainfall had affected production, but to a lesser extent than the frosts, affecting mainly the early varieties that were about to be harvested. For that fruit, losses reportedly range from 30-40%, depending on the area and the variety.
Despite the troubles, Alcaíno reportedly predicted the industry could see a second consecutive year of record returns, thanks in part to the strong demand from China.
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