Chilean fruit export industry concerned about container shortage
The Chilean Fruit Exporters' Association (Asoex) said the situation has arisen amid larger exports of fruit from Peru and Ecuador.
In addition, the country's Federation of Fruit Producer also pointed out that the recent closure of a Maersk container facility would have an impact on availability.
Decofrut president Manuel José Alcaíno said the situation could lead to greater use of sub-standard containers or increased waiting times.
Both scenarios have the potential to lead to lower quality fruit upon arrival at the destination, he said.
Refrigerated container availability in Chile has always been limited, Alcaíno explained. He said the containers are in use around the clock and often wear down quickly.
Significant percentage of containers without PTI
He added that "there is a significant percentage of containers that are being used without PTI or expired PTIs", and so they are often not in the best condition and have an increased likelihood of failing.
Failures can damage the fruit by not maintaining the correct temperatures or permitting the right amount of air flow.
"Fruit is a living organism - it breathes and that generates carbon dioxide and temperature," said Alcaíno. He added that damage levels can be higher for fruits with high respiratory rates, like cherries and blueberries.
If the container shortage worsens, it could lead to longer waiting times - which would be a major problem for the industry which ships 70% of its fruit on containers and the remaining 30% on charter ships - or an increase in the industry's use of containers that are not properly certified or old and not well suited for export.
"Both cases influence the quality of the fruit that arrives at the destination, and, as is usually the case, the smallest exporters would be most affected and they have less negotiating capacity," he said.