Big turnout on the cards for Chilean fruit event -

Big turnout on the cards for Chilean fruit event

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Big turnout on the cards for Chilean fruit event

Chile's fruit industry leaders and foreign buyers will converge on Santiago on Sept. 28 and 29 for horticultural convention FRUITTRADE. Now in its ninth year, the event will connect overseas markets with an industry that generates more than US$3.5 billion annually. Fruit union (Fedefruta) president Antonio Walker tells about what the event means for business potential, and the challenges still facing the industry.

What opportunities exist for foreign businesses at the event, and what sort of overseas presence are you expecting this year?

FRUITTRADE allows them to contact Chilean producers and exporters directly, without intermediaries, which opens the possibility of customizing in the sense of special requests that could be in packaging, color, taste, size, and so on. This allows the importer or buyer to differentiate their offer for the end customer. This year we expect at least 100 buyers from different countries, but mainly those that today trade with Chile and know the quality of Chilean fruit.

What is different about the event this year?

This year FRUITTRADE is not just considering the participation from the broad category of the fruit industry, but also with a particular emphasis on Chile's exportable supply of fresh and semi-processed vegetables, nuts and gourmet products, for which there will be a a significant number of international seminars of a technical and commercial nature available to attendees, along with a showroom to sample preparations based on these products.

You have previously encouraged investment in the Chilean fruit industry. What types of investment does Chile need to develop and progress further?

Fedefruta has promoted the conversion and modernization of traditional orchards to become modern, given the problems with climate change and the high use and value of labor, which in our sector reaches almost 70%; the cost of this, after transferring from dollars to pesos, has increased very strongly.

In parallel, the Chilean industry has developed a complete infrastructure in terms of packing and cold chains, for guaranteeing a better form of post-harvest in the way of direct exports. To this, we could add that in many cases the Chilean grower has been associated with their importer to have better trade through promotions, either on the shelves or at the wholesale level, so that Chilean fruit can go better.

In your opinion, what are the new fruits and varieties in which Chilean can better perform?

In the Chilean industry, over the last 10 years we have strongly developed blueberries, cherries, European hazelnuts, pomegranates and figs, which have been species that have grown in a significant way in international markets. At the same time, we have incorporated new varieties in our traditional species like table grapes, apples and stonefruit. In addition, cultivation has intensified for species that have existed in Chile as a result of strong international demand, as is the case with nuts and olives.

So if someone from the fruit industry can't make it to the event, what do they miss out on?

By not attending FRUITTRADE they lose unique opportunity to contact Chile's fruit producers and exporters directly, leaders of the Southern Hemisphere who can supply markets in the counterseason; businesspeople covering an area of more than 1,500km (932 miles), where it's possible to obtain fruit of the same species and variety for several months. They also lose the customization and the possibility of shortening their chain of trade, which means better commercial conditions and knowing the orchards, efficient technology and best practices first hand.

On another topic, the Chilean Government has changed tack since the fruit industry carried out demonstrations calling for assistance measures. Do you feel that finally, your government is listening to you?

After being exposed to the plight of some of the most important species in the fruit industry, the president, ministers, parliamentarians and other authorities, the full Congress, as well as senators and deputies, have supported what has been asked of the country's economic authorities in different sessions.  At this point, while in some ways the government has flexibly listened to us - for example with loan guarantees through CORFO and additionally the work Fedefruta has done with other banks, especially BancoEstado, which has led to adequate loans for the productive cycle of our sector - we believe the main issue of the current exchange policy is not resolved, which is severely weakening the competitiveness and profitiability of our activity.

In turn, what does this mean for the Chilean industry?

The Chilean industry is not growing at the pace we would like. As this industry is usually long-term, we're not going to see these problems of competitiveness and profitability over the medium-term but in the next five years, so the industry hopes the situation is corrected in the short term. But despite this, the industry will continue to export at least the same amount, around 3.5 million (metric) tons gross, supplying high quality fruit to more than 80 countries.

More than 15,000 people are expected to attend the event.

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