Subsole commercial manager Oscar Villegas said that while it has been a good season in terms of fruit production – with a high dry matter level and large sizing – there were some issues in key markets.
“In the Northern Hemisphere there was a greater volume of kiwifruit in storage, which meant that Chilean kiwifruit sales in the open market have been slower and with prices below those of last season,” he said.
In Europe, supplies from numerous countries including Italy, Greece, France, Spain and Portugal were in the market until the end of June, he said.
Chilean Kiwifruit Committee president Carlos Cruzat said Greece has produced one of its largest crops ever, supplying about 180,000 metric tons (MT) to the European market. That figure is also Chile’s total export estimate for this season, up 10,000MT from last year.
“In general, the U.S. and Latin America have behaved more or less similar to how they usually do,” he said, adding that Europe had been “less attractive” than last year.
Villegas explained that the domestic production in Europe had pushed Chilean kiwifruit sales “toward the summer”, which he noted in typically the period of lowest consumption due in part to the hot weather and competition with local summer fruit.
Chilean shippers faced similar issues in China, which has been investing in kiwifruit storage technology and infrastructure and was also able to hold onto domestic supplies until June, putting pressure on Chilean fruit for much of the season.
It’s not all bad news, however, with India a standout market this season.
Cruzat said that exports to India have grown exponentially, increasing from just 200MT four years ago to several thousand tons this campaign.
“It’s a big volume and a challenge to be able to move it, so we’re doing a promotional campaign in India so people can learn about kiwifruit,” Cruzat said.
Villegas highlighted that the challenge with India is understanding the market’s consumption capacity so as to avoid an oversupply situation.
In July, Tarun Arora, director of India-based importer-distributor IG International, said the India kiwifruit market was under “tremendous stress” amid heavy imports from Chile and New Zealand.
Speaking about the future of the Chilean kiwifruit sector, Cruzat highlighted there were various initiatives in place to bolster the country’s competitivity.
“The committee changed the harvest parameters this year and raised the requirements for dry matter and soluble solids,” he highlighted as one example.
The industry is also working in the orchards to improve fruit quality in a bid to fetch higher prices in international markets and get on a more level footing with New Zealand.
“This is a year where we have had a strategy of producing good quality kiwifruit and placing them in formal programs with pre-agreed volume and prices, which differs strongly to the kiwifruit that are sold in the open market all over the world,” he said.
Other initiatives that the Chilean Kiwifruit Committee is developing are focused on pollination and establishing a nationwide harvest forecast system.
Cruzat added that they are also working on introducing red and yellow varieties.