Chile kicks off first commercial export deal for gold Soreli kiwifruit

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Chile kicks off first commercial export deal for gold Soreli kiwifruit

Chilean kiwifruit companies are expected to export close to 100 metric tons (MT) in the first significant commercial season for the Italian-developed variety Soreli

While the Udine University-bred cultivar reached Chile in 2010, only now are the results starting to be seen with key markets to include China, South Korea and the United States.

Chile was the first Southern Hemisphere country to import Soreli plant material, which has been managed by Biogold Sudamerica (BGSA). In 2011, BGSA reached an agreement with five exporters to form a club to grow and export the variety from Chile, and to date these growers have 60 hectares in production.

BGSA operations manager Beatriz Araya tells Fresh Fruit Portal the harvest started in the last week of February and finished on March 6. 

"Our idea with the companies that formed the club was to plant a first stage with a significant surface area, but attending to the context that has been difficult for kiwifruit; the bacterial disease Psa, discrete kiwifruit prices and other species being very demanded have all led to a cautious development of new varieties in kiwifruit," Araya says.

"Nonetheless it seems what has been done with Soreli had had good results. Over the years we've been concentrated on technical aspects of the product, and this season we are already harvesting the first significant volumes."

The companies Dole, Unifrutti, Rucaray, Subsole and compañía Chilena de Fruta (CCF) have formed the Chilean Soreli club in its first stage, and Araya says a new commercial development stage is about to begin with the original members given preferential options to keep growing. 

"We are optimistic to start this new stage with our original members, but we believe there will be space for receiving new companies to be incorporated with the variety," Araya says. 

A more rigorous and resistant variety

One of the biggest concerns for the Chilean kiwifruit industry, particularly in gold varieties, continues to be Psa. However, Araya points out Soreli has proven to be "vigorous and has shown a better coexistence with the disease, which makes you think of it as a very valid alternative from this point of view".

Another advantage of the cultivar is that it's very early.

"It's the first gold variety to reach the markets, and that gives it an advantage for starting campaigns with attractive prices.

"In China for example, it has a very rewarding window if you aim toward attending to the market opening. Soreli has a shorter post-harvest life than Hayward - with good management you could consider it four months - but we believe that the window for it is in being early.

Araya says taste panels have found the fruit to have a balanced sweetness, a brilliant yellow coloring in the fresh and golden skin.

BGSA has also developed a technological package for the variety, through the help of technical teams from member companies and the University of Chile. 

"We started with a list of technical challenges proposed by the members themselves and we have done trials in disease resistance, pruning, ripening curves and post-harvest, in which we have also had support from the University of Chile," she says.

"These studies have been able to bring field management practices and harvest parameters that we are using as a reference for this season, and they will be fine-tuned as we get to know more about the variety."

For this season the club has set parameters of 8° Brix (sweetness measure), 18% dry matter, a firmness of 14 pounds of flesh color 102H.

She adds experiences with the crop in Chile and Italy have shown high productivity, with realistic expectations to harvest 45MT per hectare of which at least 35MT will meet export standards. 

She mentions the variety has already been planted in South Africa and plant material has been introduced for evaluation in Peru.

Meanwhile BGSA is in conversations with Brazilian growers who came to Chile to participate in field days.

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