Chile's kiwifruit industry is making inroads with Summerkiwi and Jintao varieties, while the South American country has also started ambitious planting of ENZARed kiwifruit to find new markets.
In an industry historically focused on the Hayward variety, Chile is expected to plant around 200 hectares of ENZARed kiwifruit this year while other varieties have also sliced their way into its fertile fields.
The red kiwifruit has only recently been grown in Chile, with its red-centered yellow-green flesh giving it a unique appearance combined with an attractive aroma.
Alejandro Navarro from Viveros Sur (Southern Nurseries) tells www.freshfruitportal.com the variety is particularly appealing to Chinese consumers who are willing to pay a high price of up to US$3 per kilogram.
"There is no counter-season supply in this market and Chile can occupy that niche," he says.
Navarro says the 16 degrees brix variety is very productive with medium calibre and a weight between 60 and 80 grams. He adds it also has higher vitamin C content than your standard kiwifruit, is sweet and has nine times more fibre than an apple or a banana.
Italian consortium Kiwigold first brought its Jintao variety to Chile in 2004 and now expects to cultivate 1,000 hectares of the fruit by 2012. Meanwhile, another Italian company Summerfruit has already notched success in four continents with its Chilean-grown early variety Summerkiwi.
Summerkiwi Committee chairman Pablo Alessandrini says the Summerkiwi variety stood out for consumers in its first season with 190,000 cases exported, while 300,000 cases are expected in 2012.
But if Summerkiwi's plans stay on track, these figures will pale into insignificance with forecasts projecting one million exports annually in five years time.
"In the United States there were two import companies we worked with, which were Oppenheimer mostly and Estela. Promotions and advertising highlighted the quality of the fruit and prices were good," says Alessandrini.
Alessandri says attempts were made to export to South Korea, but the country's two largest supermarket chains would not accept Chilean kiwifruit due to alleged exclusivity deals made with New Zealand company Zespri.
"The entry into Korea will be slow but it will come, especially as we're working on more varieties like red and yellow," he says.
The first containers of Summerkiwi arrived in Japan after the earthquake and tsnumai in March, but while the start was slow Alessandri says Japan was the export destination where the variety was best received. The variety was also exported to Russia, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela.
Gaining the upper hand
Chilean Kiwifruit Committee president Oscar Villegas tells www.freshfruitportal.com Chile is 'writing a new chapter today' with the Summerkiwi and Jintao varieties.
He says 10 years ago no one could have predicted Chile would compete with any ki
wifruit other than the Hayward variety, but the country has been able to expand its scope due to a lack of competition with other varieties.
"When you project in this way it's like you've changed the competitive status of Chile, from being a single competitor with pure Hayward to a country that can offer two, three varieties and could be present in different markets as a much more interesting supplier of different forms and varieties," he says.
According to one industry representative, it's all good to have different varieties but the game now enters into the field of trade, where Chile needs to take advantage through coordinated and intelligent marketing.
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