Argentine Patagonia to offer cherry sourcing alternative for China

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Argentine Patagonia to offer cherry sourcing alternative for China

While cherry cultivation growth in Argentina has not been significant over recent years, growers are optimistic for a marketing opening in China. During Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong last week, Carlos Stabile of Samconsult said the development would allow Argentina to complement Chilean supply, and also provide organic product if it's in demand. 

"An opening of the Chinese market could contribute to an increase in the production zone and the hectares planted," says Stabile, describing the market as having "primordial" potential for the industry.

Carlos Stabile

Carlos Stabile

Samconsult is made up of a group of growers, packhouses and exporters that deal in blueberries and cherries - for the latter, supply comes from Colonia Sarmiento in the province of Chubut and from the Rio Negro Valley in the province of Rio Negro.

Both these regions are in Argentine Patagonia, which Stabile sees as having great possibilities as an alternative export source of cherries to Asian markets.

The big question will be whether China recognizes the area as pest-free in protocols.

"For the United States we have the history of sending [fruit] from Patagonia without any type of treatment," he says.

"Argentina, as a country, can export Patagonian cherries because they are fruit fly-free," he says, adding the Patagonian cherries are harvested after the other main growing region Mendoza.

He says various governmental organizations have been involved in negotiations with their Chinese counterparts, along with the Argentine Chamber of Integrated Cherry Producers (CAPCI), headed up by Aníbal Caminiti.

A key piece of the puzzle will be how Argentina fits with Chile in supplying the Chinese market.

"When Chile could finally opened the Chinese market it could send the majority of its exports to that market, and today I'm not sure whether it represents 70% of the Chilean supply, or a bit more or a bit less, but we can say that it is the most representative.

"So, that is a clear reflection of what this market can mean in case it opens in the coming months; I wouldn't say years."

He says Argentine cherries are able to grow in far southern regions equivalent to the Chilean region of Chile Chico, which means Argentina could be a good complement to the country's supply.

"We are expanding in the southern Patagonian countryside, and this is the first year that we've sent organic production, which is not common in Southern Hemisphere cherries because the large grower is Chile and it doesn't have the capacity to grow organically because of rain or humidity.

"As Argentina has less humidity than what Chile has, it has fewer phytosanitary problems," he says, adding the big challenge is mostly around the possibility of frosts between October and December.

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