Chile could pop cherry record
If Chile's mild spring continues the country could be in for a record cherry harvest, but there is still a probability of frosts in the coming weeks that could lead to lower volumes.
Chilean market researcher iQonsulting expects the country will export 70,182 metric tons (MT) of cherries in the 2011-12 season, representing 14 million cartons.
IQonsulting executive director Isabel Quiroz, says the climate this season has been conducive to fruit development so far, with a high accumulation of winter chills leading to exceptional buds and flowering, which will likely mean a large and high quality crop.
However, the season is running one or two weeks late depending on the area, with air freight exports due in two weeks time (week 43) from the earliest areas of the IV (Coquimbo) and V (Valparaiso) regions. Exports from the VI (O'Higgins) and Metropolitana regions are set for Nov. 5.
Producers are hoping the good weather continues for these next couple of weeks and throughout the season, although they are now in a period that is naturally sensitive to potential frosts. IQonsulting says there were frosts over the weekend of Oct. 8-9 but the impact was not significant.
In terms of markets, Asia has had a growing significance for Chilean cherry exports in recent years reaching 45% of volumes last season, followed by the U.S. (36%) and Europe (12%). Chilean cherry exporters will continue to have their eyes on China as a growing market, especially given the current weak economies of the U.S. and Europe.
Chinese New Year is due on Jan. 23 this year and is a prime period for cherry sales, so shipments from Chile will need to be sent before Christmas to ensure they arrive on time. There will likely be a strong competition between fruits for the celebrations, but cherries will have a natural advantage due to their red color and the fact 2012 is the Year of the Dragon.