"Auspicious" season continues for northern Chilean grapes
After overcoming natural disasters in 2015, warm weather and a U.S. market shortage have been positive for Atacama table grape exporters.
Speaking with www.freshfruitportal.com, Copiapo Valley Agricultural Producers and Exporters Association (APECO) president Lina Arrieta said while total shipments would be down this campaign, but the fruit was reaching markets sooner than usual.
"Combining the ports of Huasco and Caldera we have 11 ships that have already left to the U.S. East Coast in Philadelphia - we've had 12,000 pallets shipped from Huasco and 20,000 pallets from Caldera," Arrieta said.
"We have gone with more ships to date than last season, and we expect to export 45,000 pallets more or less for this season to the U.S. East Coast."
Once the end of January comes, the industry will likely start shipping the fruit to Asia from the ports of Coquimbo and San Antonio further south.
"It's an auspicious season because the exchange rate with the dollar helps a lot with exports, and we're going with fruit a couple of weeks earlier than last season – there are varieties that left beforehand, and that’s been good for us to date," she said.
"Last year we managed to send five ships from Caldera, so we have a lot more exports from there than last season at this date," she said, adding six had already left the port this season.
The executive also pointed to attractive expectations for irrigation security, in a region that is named after the driest desert in the world.
"We are very optimistic because there is a lot of snow in the mountains, and with the high temperatures we have a considerable amount of water that is flowing into the Lautaro Dam – yesterday we had 2,800 liters per second which is a lot.
"In a way this means we are saved this season in terms of water resources for agriculture, and on the other hand with so much snow on the mountains we could have more water and that could help us to be more relaxed for the next season.
"Despite everything that happened, the whole world, our associates, are working hard, with passion, trying to get the most out of the fruit as possible."
Arrieta's comments on U.S. market prospects were echoed by another Chilean exporter based in the central part of the country, Subsole.
While fruit has been leaving northern Chile much earlier, Subsole table grape specialist Juan Colombo told www.freshfruitportal.com loads continue to be low for the bulk of the national industry.
"The amount of fruit that has left Chile from week one is much lower than what has gone out in previous years," Colombo said, adding the Californian stock was consumed much sooner in North America and Peruvian exports were delayed as a result of the El Niño weather phenomenon.
"We are going through a period in which the quantity of supply is low and is trending downwards. Increases won't be seen in the coming weeks and there is a period of very active demand in the North American market."
In terms of prices, Colombo said he saw "prices in the high range of historic values, which the risk of moving little volume".
"But with the current situation and the projected supply from Chile, this scenario shouldn't change much until the end of January."