Chilean fruit exports still in jeopardy due to government strikes

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Chilean fruit exports still in jeopardy due to government strikes

Since this story was published, the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX) has spoken out on the matter. Click here to find out more.

Chile's fruit exports have been set back and growers are fed up with political inaction, as the country's National Association of Customs Officials (ANEF) and the Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG) continue striking in solidarity with fellow public servants. Valparaiso _ Flickr _ PJFurlong06 _ panormaa 1

The roots of the strike are in the government's proposed pay rise of 4.4%. Workers initially sought a higher rise of 8.8%, but public sector unions have since dropped their demands down to 7%.

"It's tremendously worrying because our country doesn't show concern for this. We are losing credibility overseas and the state does not react," says cherry grower Antonio Hoces, who runs a 16-hectare farm in Las Cabras in the VI (O'Higgins) region.

"Before the strike started on Nov. 20 we managed to send a bit - 2,000 boxes - but that's out of 20,000 in total that have been harvested in the last two weeks.

"We have now just been given expectations from customs that 1,000 boxes of cherries will be approved for air shipments today as they are doing what’s called an 'ethical shift', although I don’t know how ethical it really is."

Terrafrut general manager Alvaro Larrondo says the airport is full of cherries that cannot be sent, and exporters like himself have been forced to keep fruit longer in cold chambers.

"The worst thing is that this is happening in a year when there's half the fruit. We are disappointed and sad as the strikers don’t respect us as an export sector dealing in highly perishable products - we need political support from the government to protect us," he says.

"This is not good for our national image. If Chile continues down this path we will become the next Venezuela."

Hoces adds that not only do these issues impact on credibility, and drive down prices due to a flood of produce at "inappriate times", but also lead to the deterioration of fruit condition.

A representative from avocado exporter Cabilfrut tells his company had managed to continue maritime and land freight shipments throughout the strike, but there was uncertainty aroudn a few containers today.

"I have problems with one container that has been detained in the Port of Valparaiso that hasn’t been confirmed yet, and if it isn’t authorized that will complicate the situation for me," says Cabilfrut operations manager Ricardo Arend.

"On the other hand, we have two cargos going to Argentina and Uruguay that should be stopped at the Andes border crossing. I have been told that we may get them approved today but if not it will have to be Monday," he adds.

C.H. Robinson Chile commercial manager Jose Antonio Alonso sums up the situation quite well, with mixed signals about the strike's duration and effects across the board.

"No one knows anything about what is going on," he says.

"Everyone is worried because they can’t send their fruit and they can’t do anything about it because neither SAG nor customs are working. It's the same with air freight and the same with sea freight.

"We have hopes this can be resolved today."

Pacific Seaways CEO Francisco Labarca is more positive about the situation.

"I haven't heard anything. In this country you have strikes and exporters aren't affected. We are stacking shipments and if the situation were as people say, we wouldn’t be operating so regularly," he tells

"At the moment we are sending blueberries, cherries and a bit of stonefruit."

Related story: Customs strikes cause delays for Chilean fruit exports

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, PJFurlong06




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