Labor scarcity, smaller sizing put strain on Chile's 2016 apple deal

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Labor scarcity, smaller sizing put strain on Chile's 2016 apple deal

After two difficult seasons the Chilean apple industry was hoping for a 10% rise in volume this year, but it was not to be. Due to lower spring temperatures, recent rains and other factors, exports are set to be down 5%, according to Antonio Walker, who heads up a grower organization for the country's Maule (VII) Region, Fruséptima.

Walker tells the problems with temperatures meant fruit could not set as much as orchardists would have liked. Manzana-shutterstock_122326525 npanorama

"When the size is lower, the units are there but the kilos aren't," he says, adding recent rains had a significant impact on the Fuji apple crop.

"Before the rains this variety had an export volume of 75-80% and after the rain that dropped to 30-40%, due to cracking in the pedicle area.

"This has been very bad news for the apple industry because Fuji is a high-value apple."

The variety is mainly shipped to Taiwan, where Walker still thinks the industry can achieve sales of around US$500 million from the variety.

In terms of other cultivars, he says the season has been normal for Galas but with lower sizing, while Granny Smiths have not been shipped to the same degree as in previous years as the pesticide PDA is not allowed in many markets.

There is a normal season expected for Cripps Pink, marketed as Pink Lady, which has shown good fruit and more color which has not been affected by sunburn.

Walker adds Red Delicious orchards have been pulled out of the ground across a large area of farmland.

"As the apple industry we have been hit a bit, because we're coming out of two difficult years in terms of profitability."

Another challenge has been finding enough labor to pick and package the fruit.

"This year we had 10-15% fewer people in the harvests, which led to a bit of a delay, meant that wages rose, and therefore rose the cost of production significantly.

"We're in a season that isn't as bad as the previous one. In terms of profitability it'll be a bit better, but tough."

He emphasizes Europe has more fruit in stock to compete with the Southern Hemisphere deal, while there has been less fruit left over from the U.S. apple campaign which bodes well for Chilean supply.

He also highlights there has been snow recently in Europe, where trees are currently in the flowering stage and the low temperatures could have an impact on the following season.

"Apparently it's very significant," he says, adding the phenomenon affected Eastern Europe as well as countries like Germany, Italy and France.



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