Strawberry losses 'very high' for Organic Fruits Chile

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Strawberry losses 'very high' for Organic Fruits Chile

Chile's largest organic raspberry and strawberry grower-exporter is in a tough spot after unexpected rains affected crops in the VIII (Bioio) region.

Organic Fruits Chile president Robinson Peña de la Fuente, told more than 20% of the strawberry crop was lost and this figure could rise to 30% if weather conditions persisted.

The wet weather on Nov. 8-9 was during the peak harvest with negative impacts for the company's 30 hectares of organic strawberries in Coihueco.

"The rain is generally well received here for raspberry crops and traditional fruits, but with strawberries it's horrible," he said.

"For where we are located, which is 20km (12.4mi) east of Chillán, these rains were fatal as it rained during the afternoon and the next day the some came up with a temperature of 25-30°C (77-86°F)."

More than 53mm of rain hit the area during the two days, according to the Meteorological Directorate of Chile. Climatologist Dr. Rodrigo Cazanga said while the rain was not entirely abnormal, their impact was heightened by the El Niño phenomenon.

"These conditions should decline soon, but there is a chance of rain during January and February," he said.

Organic Fruits Chile has already lost the equivalent of US$450,000, which makes life complicated for Peña who has commitments with buyers in the U.S. and Canada.

"Demand keeps growing and unfortunately the supply hasn't been able to grow. This is complicated for us because we had a forecast of 900 (metric) tons and we're not going to be able to fulfill that.

"For us the situation is complex. Our cost of production per hectare is almost 100% more expensive than for traditional strawberries, so therefore losing 20% is really a very high loss."

Cazanga's advice for growers in the area to face these types of issues is to have well managed furrows and ridges to prevent water from remaining the pasture so that the top part of plants stays dry.

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