Business as usual for Chilean table grape exporters -

Business as usual for Chilean table grape exporters

The Chilean table grape season is just getting underway in some parts of the country, with a generally normal and positive outlook reported by the industry. uvas_81668905 _ small

Harvests recently began for early varieties in the III  (Atacama) Region's Copiapo Valley, which are currently being prepared for export. Perlette, Thompson and Flame are the first varieties in the area to be harvested.

Copiapo Valley Agricultural Producers and Exporters Association (APECO) vice president Timothy Taffe told he was feeling optimistic about the campaign.

"We're starting on more or less the same dates as usual. In the last few years in Copiapo the season has begun towards the end of November and we're seeing the same thing now," he said.

"I believe the production is looking good for the majority of producers. Overall I think it's going to be a good season."

Taffe mentioned in general there had been a limited supply of manual labor for table grape growers, but claimed this had not dampened the industry's positive expectations.

The fruit quality is also said to be shaping up well, helped along by the lack of any adverse weather conditions.

"This year we didn't have any major frosts in Copiapo - the same as in most of the country - so the climatic conditions have been very favorable for us," Taffe said.

The APECO vice president said the Copiapo area usually produced some 10 million boxes of fruit, but this year he wouldn't be surprised if volumes reached 11-11.5 million.

Although production is on the up, Taffe said there was generally a lot more focus on replacing old and less productive vineyards than increasing hectarage.

"Within that you've got the traditional varieties like Thompson and some Red Globe, and some other newer varieties that are coming into the market slowly but surely. These varieties are ones like Prime, Allison, Arra, but they're really just test productions at the moment," he said.

A representative of another organization that is focused on exports but also has its own production from the Copiapo Valley down to the central regions reported a similar outlook to Taffe.

Agricola Mipal commercial director Franco Romero told the company's production had been increasing 'considerably' over recent years, but it was still not quite keeping up with international demand.

"The start of the season was maybe a little bit harder due to frosts in some areas and the droughts we've had this year, but we've got bigger volumes than last year so obviously it didn't affect us too badly," Romero said.

Agricola Mipal's main markets are Brazil, China and South Korea, with the Red Globe variety making up the majority of the volume sent to each country.

The company will also start shipping to the U.S. from this season, where the Crimson variety is far more popular than Red Globe.

Romero said while the demand was good in all of the export markets, prices had been offset somewhat by the rapidly increasing table grape volumes coming out of Chile.