Chilean cherry production and exports are expected to fall by up to 20% year-on-year this season, according to industry sources.
Last year exports nearly doubled to around 187,000 metric tons (MT) – equivalent to about 39 million boxes – which caused problems in some key points along the supply chain.
However, the lower volumes expected this season should reduce the likelihood of those problems repeating themselves.
“Last year was something quite atypical regarding production per hectare, and in the end, it was a year in which all the areas and varieties had a lot of fruit, and that is something that happens once every 10 years,” said Claudio Vial, general manager of the exporter Ranco Cherries.
“On the other hand, normally after a year with lots of fruit there is one with less supply, and that is what we see for the next season.”
Vial explained that so far they have seen fewer flowers in the orchards, indicating there will be a reduction in volumes.
“Today we see that the production of cherries will be around 28 – 30 million boxes,” he said.
Cristian Tagle, president of the Chilean Cherry Committee, added: “It is difficult to have the volumes of the past year.”
However, Vial emphasized that although production would be down, there would still be much fruit.
“Moving 25 or 30 million boxes to China is a gigantic challenge however you look at it,” he said.
Both interviewees agreed that a lower volume of fruit would be less likely to generate problems seen last season related to logistics, packaging and oversupply issues in the Chinese market,
“The risk of having the same problems as last season is small for several reasons. Firstly, for the volume and the concentration. Last year there was a very strong concentration in the last two weeks of December, and that’s a factor we hope not to repeat,” Tagle said.
“The industry has been preparing, and there are more packaging lines than last year … the bottlenecks or the tightness of harvesting, packaging and shipping capacity should not happen.”
October and November will be key
Vial said the development of the flowering stage indicates this will not be an early season, and the next few months will be vital in determining how the campaign will develop.
“We depend a lot on how spring evolves,” Vial said.
Rainfall and frost events over the last few months in Chile’s central regions have also caused concern in the industry.
“There are some occasional damages due to frost, but it is not general – we believe that there is no more than 3-5% of areas and orchards with an impact,” Tagle said.
However, Vial said that the lower supplies would likely lead to better quality fruit this year.
Decofrut forecasts a similar drop in exports
Chilean market intelligence company Decofrut has predicted a reduction in exports of between 15-20%, anticipating around 150,000MT to be shipped, equivalent to 31 – 33 million boxes.
It said the reduction was partly due to the natural effect in the orchards following such as high-volume year, and also because of some issues related to the accumulation of cold hours, especially in the central-northern growing areas.
However, it said this estimate was subject to change and dependent on climatic conditions over the coming months.