Chile: Fruittrade achieves 700+ participants -

Chile: Fruittrade achieves 700+ participants

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Chile: Fruittrade achieves 700+ participants

More than 700 people converged on Santiago's Parque Araucano yesterday for Chilean industry event Fruittrade, organized by the Chilean Federation of Fruit Growers (Fedefruta) with the support of ProChile.

The event highlighted the importance of the sector for deevloping the national economy and how crucial it is to keep improving the production processes for greater competitiveness.

Agriculture Minister Luis Mayol was very optimistic about the challenges the industry has taken on leading exporter of fresh fruits in the Southern Hemisphere. He added the budget for his portfolio continued to grow with the goal of turning Chile into a global food power.

Obstacles in Chilean agriculture

During the opening ceremony, Mayol stood firm in his stance in the face of criticisms from the export sector concerning the low value of US dollars compared to Chilean pesos.

"The price of the dollar is a variable we cannot control. There is an autonomous Central Bank that has to decide whether it will intervene like in previous years or not," he said.

He also emphasized the labor shortage problems the sector was experiencing, decribing foreign worker visas as an urgent measure that would help plug the gap.

On this issue, Fedefruta president Cristián Allendes called for the attention of the government and authorities.

"Our industry has a workforce of more than 450,000 employees between permanent and temporary, but we have to be creative and proactive in order to confront and contain this growing phenomenon [labor shortage].

"Here we ask the state to assist in giving the same opportunities to rural people or rural life as those who live in urban areas or cities.

"This means better roads, better schools, hospitals, internet, recreation - equalizing access to development in the country like what happens in the cities."

Despite the problems of a developing sector, the growth shown by the industry this year was positive. Although the weather was not the most suitable for the industry and led to a 2.1% year-on-year export decline compared to 2011, the Freight on Board (FOB) price was 6% higher.

"The Chilean fruit industry exported 276 million boxes in the 2011-12 season, equivalent to 2.6 million metric tons (MT) of fruit, representing a decrease of 2.1% over the previous year," Allendes said.

"However, the FOB value of sales was US$3.9 billion, an amount that is superior by 6% compared to last season, which means their value increased significantly for that season."

Investing in innovation

Minister for the Economy Pablo Longueira said it was very important for the industry to develop new varieties and research how the country can move from its position as an exporter of raw materials to a shipper of value added products.

"Next year will be devoted to innovation. We have increased by 9% the budget for innovation by 2013," he said.

ProChile director Félix de Vicente also pointed to innovation as a key growth and development driver, and an important part of the entity's commitments for 2014.

ProChile is also looking to expand markets from the existing base of 22 trade agreements spanning 59 different countries.

During the event's inauguration, Mayol, Longueira and Allendes signed an agreement for clean production and sustainable pollination.

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