Chilean Iniagrape-one exports could triple in 2017

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Chilean Iniagrape-one exports could triple in 2017

A Chilean-developed black seedless grape variety known for its flavor and post-harvest benefits is set for it's biggest season yet, with cultivar manager A.N.A-Chile forecasting 160,000 boxes of production this year. 

The variety Iniagrape-one is named after its breeder the Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA), with 50 different growers cultivating the fruit over 270 hectares in the South American country.

It is expected that 100 more hectares will be added this year.

In a release, A.N.A-Chile said the main destination markets for the variety included China, the U.K., the U.S. and Asian markets in general - particularly South Korea and Japan.

To understand more about the crop's development, Fresh Fruit Portal caught up with Leonardo Marchant, commercial director at export company G.L.S. which comprises seven growers in Chile's Central Valley.

The G.L.S. grower members have 1,000 hectares of different table grapes planted, but Iniagrape-one represents just 30 hectares of full production to date. 

"We have gone through the whole learning process with the variety as in one of the fields our growers conducted an evaluation of Iniagrape-one with six or seven plants, so we've known it for many years," Marchant said.

He said the first commercial trials took place six years ago for the Far East market, and commercial shipments started in earnest just three years ago.

"At the start we didn't see this variety as something very attractive, until we realized you had to harvest it with a much higher sugar level so the acidity was reduced, and that was when we were convinced it was a very promising variety," he said.

He said the Iniagrape-one's flavor was distinct and not similar in any way to other black grape varieties.

"I think the variety doesn't compete directly with the other black varieties, mainly because of the flavor. We are trying to position it on a different path.

"This fruit is harvested with a minimum of 20° brix, between 20-24. That gives it its very characteristic taste with a very good sugar-acidity balance.

"What's important is managing the variety well and harvesting it at the appropriate time, because when it's not ready it's very acidic and the flavor is very different. Ideally it's recommended to harvest with an acidity of 0.7."

While the variety doesn't have a lot of "crunch" compared to others, in some orchards this texture has been achieved, according to Marchant. 

"We have seen very good quality this season," he said.

G.L.S. is currently shipping the variety to markets such as China, South Korea, England and the U.S., with a projection of 30,000 boxes this season. Next year the projection is to reach 90,000 boxes

He said the variety had a similar seasonal timing to Thompson, but this year it was early and therefore practically all the vineyards had already been harvested.

"We have seen very good quality to date, as orchards mature and the quality evolves positively, especially in the berry sizes, the type of bunch and productivity per hectare, which we expect will reach an average of 3,000 boxes per hectare next season," he said.

Vladimir Rodriguez, an agronomist in charge of Del Monte's UAC planting of the variety in San Felipe, said this year the grape had a bluish black tinge this year covering the whole berry, without having used any color inducing substances.

Dragomir Ljubetic, agronomist and consultant at V&F, said the experience gained with the variety over the last three years had allowed growers to achieve superior quality.

The variety was also sent as a  fair trade product to the European market last year, and genetic material has been taken to Peru, the U.S., Australia, Spain, Italy, South Africa and India.

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