Extended deals from China and Greece in particular were said to be largely behind a more complicated market situation compared to last year.
“We stored fruit in China until much later because the country was selling local kiwifruit until the end of May, beginning of June, which kept prices lower in that sector,” Oscar Villegas from Subsole Kiwi told Fresh Fruit Portal.
In Europe, Chile’s leading kiwifruit market, he said Greek fruit was on the market for longer than anticipated by Chilean exporters.
Carlos Cruzat, president of the Chilean Kiwi Committee, explained: “This is a season that comes after an extremely positive period, where the expectations were not very high and where the results were very good, therefore the producers were left with high market expectations.”
He added that “the results are not as good as expected, but I don’t think this year will be a bad one – it will just be much tighter than last year. And that has to do in part with the expectations that we created and the pressures that we placed on the markets”.
In the U.S. the kiwifruit market has been slow, with sharp price declines in week 25, according to the committee.
By week 25, Chile had exported 118,256 metric tons (MT) of kiwifruit, on par wth last year. Market distribution has remained relatively stable, with 38% sent to Europe, 23% to the Far East, 14% to Latin America and North America each, and 8% to Russia.
Importance of storage
Cruzat went on to explain there are “new challenges” that will affect the global kiwifruit market and that Chile will need to adapt to remain an important player.
Rising production from Greece and China means Northern Hemisphere fruit will continue to be available in the market for longer than before, he said.
“This will mean that from now on, Chilean exporters must not rush and they must harvest fruit that can be stored well, and also stored cheaply,” he said. Chile will also need to to extend its season at the back-end, he said, urging growers to try and produce fruit later than normal.
“Historically, the second half of the season has been fairly stable in terms of results – that requires good storage infrastructure, and it requires the commercial ability to wait,” he said.
“There are companies that harvest the fruit and dispatch it straight away. Obviously, these companies, with this strategy, will face markets that still have large stocks of fruit and not very competitive prices,” he said.
Although there is still storage capacity available in Chile, Cruzat said new storage chambers would have to be built.
“It is likely that investments will be seen in the coming years, in more specialized storage chambers, so that all the efficiencies of temperature control, ethylene, etcetera, are well applied,” he said.
Chilean institutions are also working on developing improved kiwifruit varieties that are more suited to the changing market environment, he said.