Argentina may regulate kiwifruit imports to promote local production
While Argentina's kiwifruit industry is small and the country mainly buys the fruit from abroad, the national government has announced plans to provide a credit line to boost production and is also considering regulating imports during the local season. At www.freshfruitportal.com, we speak with Argentine Kiwifruit Association president Luis Figueroa about efforts to raise yields and the amount of cultivated land.
Figueroa says the size of Argentina's kiwifruit orchards does not exceed 2,000ha and there is a lack of joint planning between growers and officials.
"We are learning and we believe we have achieved a technical aptitude that will allow us to produce successfully, to the extent that the economic policies of future governments accompany the decisions of growers, and economies which are very depressed at the moment," he says.
"The increase in production is planned in the heads of growers, but there is no organizational study that lets us know by how many acres production is going to increase.
"Each producer has more or less clear what they will do, but we're not organized enough to know what increase in planted surface area there will be in the future."
Argentina is a large importer of kiwifruit with the product mainly coming from Chile and Argentina, prompting growers to realize the fruit's potential in a local market that consumes 20,000 metric tons (MT) of the fruit each year.
"Argentina is a market that consumes the product, and we believe that with other rules in the economy, we could be supplying local consumption," he says.
"But, if we are in a world where the imported product ends up being cheaper than the domestic product, we have a problem."
When it comes to farmers' calls for change to the government through protests, Figueroa says the fruit sector does not have the capacity to catch attention or exercise pressure. However, he says growers do support the demands as the state's measures are seriously impacting producers and the national economy.
"We are too small a sector of the economy to be able to take measures that draw attention to our problematic situation. We are not on strike, and if we were, unfortunately, no one would know because we are a sector that is, as I said, tiny in production.
"However, we believe that the complaints from farms are justified in almost all cases, and we also believe that regional economies are seriously affected from the country's north, whether it be the olive, citrus, apple or pear sectors.
"The fruit industry in general is seriously affected, as is the meat sector, wheat production, the dairy sector. Basically, after soy there is nothing else, and that too is starting to suffer from the effects of this policy, which for us is mistaken."
The Argentine kiwifruit season runs from February to May, with the majority of production in the province of Buenos Aires and some orchards further afield.
"There is a production hub in the area of Mar del Plata, and another in La Plata some 60km (37mi) from the city of Buenos Aires. Another is in the northern zone of the [Buenos Aires] province in Baradero, and there is also production in the central-northern zone of Mercedes.
"On the other hand there is production in the south of Cordoba and some isolated [production] in a part of Entre Rios and in the province of Rio Negro."