Strong season for Chilean kiwifruit despite early weather concerns
There may have been some worries at the start of the year over how high temperatures would affect production, but the Chilean kiwifruit sector is now wrapping up what has turned out to be a strong export campaign.
The season that started in March saw Europe as the leading market. Up until week 31 this year the market had registered good demand with higher prices year-on-year.
A limited demand in general also boosted sales of Chilean fruit, according to market intelligence organization Decofrut.
Chile's total kiwifruit exports from January through July increased 3% year-on-year to 137,493 metric tons (MT), according to the Office of Agricultural Research and Policy (ODEPA).
A representative of kiwifruit consultancy Abud & Cía said a hotter than normal summer in January and February had worried the industry.
"From a production point of view this season was complicated, not because of diseases, but because of weather phenomena that meant the plants were subjected to a long period of stress this summer, affecting the size of the fruit," general manager Christian Abud told Fresh Fruit Portal.
"In [major kiwifruit production region] Curicó we had the hottest month in history, which means that the kiwifruit didn't grow."
While the fruit may have been smaller than desired, its general cosmetic condition was an improvement on previous years, he clarified.
Abud noted that lower volumes of local fruit available in some of Chile's export markets had also helped.
"The Northern Hemisphere stocks declined, specifically in Italy where it dropped 20%," he said, explaining the situation boosted both sales and prices for Chilean fruit.
However, he said weather events that affected European levels of production often repeated themselves in the Southern Hemisphere.
The representative said the two key challenges for the industry in the future would be reaching the Asian market with fruit in a good cosmetic condition - to be able to compete with New Zealand - and also renovating the country's aging orchards.
"This is a medium to long-term measure. The orchards have to be converted with to be more modern, with different densities, designs, and forms," he said.
"A lot of the time this is taken with uncertainty because there are years when the prices are good, and others when they are not. I believe that, as a country, there is a very big commercial challenge of achieving uniform standards that allow fruit to compete far better with our main rival which is New Zealand."
Data from ODEPA show Chile has shipped 58,402 metric tons (MT) to Europe, 31,852MT to Asia and 26,161 metric tons (MT) to North America.
From January through July, there were year-on-year increases to the U.K. (+97%; 7,007MT), Russia (+14%; 12,039MT), France (+26%; 4,791MT), the Netherlands (+8%; 11,263MT) and the U.S. (+1%; 20,046MT), while there were decreases to China (-23%; 16,887MT) and Spain (-10%; 7,149MT).