Chilean avocado stronghold hit by water scarcity

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Chilean avocado stronghold hit by water scarcity

Chile's avocado-growing heartland Quillota in the V (Valparaiso) Region is expecting low crop volumes this season due to water shortages, a farmer representative has warned.

Quillota Farmers' Association president Santiago Matta said avocadoes account for 70% of the province's irrigated cultivated land, while Quillota produces 28% of Chile's overall volumes of the fruit.

"Avocadoes need water for flowering and fruit forming and we had limited availability, particularly in October, which is an important month for the fruit and therefore, we anticipate that production will be very low in the province, " he said.

He said unlike the previous year, snow thawing occurred much earlier than normal which caused serious irrigation problems.

"We were without water this season in August and there was no more thawing, therefore, from late September and in October and November we were virtually without water."

Matta said for the last decade his organization has been searching for a solution to the province's lack of water and had participated in the Aconcagua project, which looked at creating a US$400 million dam from the Aconcagua River.

However, he said in the short-term a battery of wells using underground water and water from the Los Aromos resevoir could be built.

Matta said this would require a US$40 million investment which he considered was not a high price to pay to solve Quillota's water problems, but added the "political will" was not there to complete such a scheme.

He estimates the economic damage to Quillota producers due to insufficient water is in the region of US$200-300 million.


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