Chile on fast track to develop better stonefruit

More News Top Stories
Chile on fast track to develop better stonefruit

For a year now, Chile's Fruit Technology Consortium and the Agricultural Innovation Foundation (FIA) have been developing new stonefruit varieties  in hopes of improving a national industry that has suffered setbacks due to difficult climatic conditions and low plums_ffpperformance.

Project coordinator Jaime Kong spoke with about what sets this development project apart from the typical breeding program.

"It is about speeding along evaluation time for stonefruit cultivars - peaches, nectarines and plums - through a genetic improvement program. In general, these stonefruit programs take between 12 and 15 years from the moment they start breeding until you get a commercial variety," Kong said.

"These cultivars come with outstanding features subject to very strict protocol. We have the input of member exporting companies that tell us which characteristics the industry needs. The fruit that meet the attribute qualifications go directly to the commercial evaluation phase."

To speed up the process, cultivars are replicated at five locations between Region V (Valparaíso) and Region VII (Maule) and then go on for market evaluation. The process decreases development time for a new breed to reach the market from 12 years to eight years.

"Exporters join us in the second, evaluation phase and at the end of this four-year phase, we will have commercially evaluated breeds that can be converted into commercial varieties. To date we have 15 preselected cultivars and every year we add 10 more," Kong said.

The need to develop unique varieties

For Kong, Chile is in a difficult situation in terms of competitiveness, as markets become increasingly more demanding and consumer tastes vary across markets.

"Today the mix is shifting. The consumer picks based on flavor, on the experience and markets today are setting themselves apart. The U.S. market is stagnant because there isn't much room to grow and Europe is experiencing a crisis. We need to diversify the markets toward Asia and Latin America," Kong said.

"The genesis of our consortium is to respond to the country's need to count on new varieties that improve market arrival condition, that reduce production costs and that have better durability. There's a need to stop relying on foreign varieties where you have to pay a royalty and you don't have the certainty that they are going to work here."

According to Kong, climatic conditions have caused low productivity and fruit sales.  In turn, this brings lower availability and lower quality.

"We need value-added fruit and right now, we don't have that. Today the fruit is in a commodity category and if we compare them to new varieties that have been developed around the world, those have a better price. They also have a plus because they have more sugar, better flavor and more durability. That's what we're aiming this project toward," he said.

"The objective of this project is to improve profitability across the chain, because you're offering value-added fruit, lower production costs, increased productivity and a process that's more environmentally sustainable and friendly."

After finishing the first commercial evaluation stage in 2015, the most outstanding hybrids will be officially disclosed under established Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG) protocol to protect intellectual property.

The fruit consortium also works with genetic improvement programs for apples, grapes and cherries.


-Chile's stonefruit exports for the past year reached US$612.4 million, a 25% increase over 2010.

-Stonefruit are one of the top fruit categories, next to table grapes, apples and berries.

-Chile's main stonefruit export destinations are the U.S., Europe and Latin America.

Subscribe to our newsletter