Chile-Colombia partnership to build frozen fruit plant

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Chile-Colombia partnership to build frozen fruit plant

Chilean and Colombian partners have teamed up to build an ambitious fruit processing plant focused on pineapples, mangoes, bananas, papayas and melons.

Chilean frozen fruit exporter Frutícola Olmué has teamed up with Colombian partners to form Olmué Colombia, with plans to export around 6,000 metric tons (MT) of frozen fruit in 2012.

Colombian Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo turns the first sod for the project. Photo: Fruticola Olmué

The facility will be the first of its kind in Colombia, with a second stage of the project set to involve broccoli,capsicums and cherry tomatoes, along with a feasibility study for strawberries, blueberries and exotic fruit like dragonfruit.

The construction's opening was attended by Colombian Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo, in the Cauca Valley municipality of Palmira.

It is expected the first stage of the project will reach 25% of the facility's capacity with the employment of 350 workers and 700 indirect jobs for supplying farmers, according to Restrepo. The plan is that the facility will reach full capacity in three years.

The minister highlighted the efforts of entrepreneurs from both countries to support the regional economy and generate employment.

Colombia Olmué director of sales Sergio Torres, told Colombia would likely be a standout performer from Latin America over the coming decade.

"Although it's not part of the global fruit exporters circuit, we think Colombia is the country that could have the highest growth in Latin America in the next 10 years, from its agricultural sector and particularly horticulture," he said.

He said there were many producers in the Cauca Valley that were interested in investing in the fruit industry, with Olmué Colombia set to generate purchasing power that will allow for fresh fruit exports as well.

Frutícola Olmué partner Juan Esser explains the project's objective is to expand the supply of products available, which is something customers are already asking for. The company currently ships berries, kiwifruit, grapes and asparagus, among other products.

After analyzing their options in Central America and Peru, the company eventually decided on Colombia.

"One of our partners Max Hassler did business in Colombia, which has undergone a restructuring with more civil peace. We chose it because we know it and we know that there are great opportunities, and although people view it as a risky country, it's safety has improved and it's on a very good footing," said Esser.

The government has declared the facility area a 'Permanent Free Trade Zone of Olmue Colombia' as part of a plan to spur agricultural development.

Torres says North America, Europe and Asia will each account for around 30% of exports from the plant, while the remaining 10% will be destined for Latin American markets.

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