Although the U.S. market has so far this season received several times more Chilean stonefruit than last year, one grower has said it can be explained by a phenomena affecting the entire fruit industry.
Santiago-based market consultancy group recently Decofrut highlighted the dramatic year-on-year increase, but Tuniche Fruits general manager Matias Alamos said many fruits were being harvested earlier than normal.
“Just like what is happening with all the fruits, this season nectarines and peaches are much earlier than the previous season,” he told www.freshfruitportal.com.
“There is a gap of about two weeks. We have always started to harvest these fruits in December, but this year we started in late November.”
He added the company had now finished picking all the varieties that had been harvested last year until Christmas.
A representative of another company echoed Alamos’ comments, with GeoFrut sales manager Ignacio Huerta saying the high year-on-year volumes in the U.S. market were simply down to an early start to the season.
He added that the early start was not necessarily a positive aspect, as many importers are often not ready to receive and distribute the increased volumes.
“It’s all about good communication between the receivers and the supermarkets, so that they are prepared to receive this volume and they carry out promotions two weeks early,” he said.
“With us was happened was that they were not prepared to receive our cherries, and because of that the market has been a little more depressed.”
Another key issue in the Chilean nectarine industry at the moment is the question of when shippers will be permitted to carry out their first exports to the Chinese market.
Market access was announced in late October by Chilean Agriculture Minister Carlos Furche, following three years of negotiations between authorities, but a final and crucial visit by a Chinese delegation to the South American country has been delayed.
Alamos says if the visit by officials from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China (AQSIQ) does not take place until February, Chilean shippers will have very limited opportunities this campaign.
“Everything will depend 100% on when the inspectors come and give us the okay,” he said.
“If they arrive within the next few weeks we could start shipping in January, and we would have lots of opportunities, but if they come in February the volumes will be small, and by that date there won’t be many varieties available,” he said.
Tuniche Fruits is expecting to produce around 600,000 boxes of nectarines this season, of which 70% are currently being shipped to the U.S., with the rest going mainly to Latin America and Europe.
“If China enters the game, I think that would change our spread completely – I think about 20% of our total production would go to that market,” he said.