The Argentine cherry industry has grown significantly over recent years, positioning itself as one of the most profitable and promising fruit sectors in the country.
The country, which has 2,300 hectares of trees planted and last year achieved an export volume of 4,716 metric tons (MT), is basing its development in large part on the industry in neighboring Chile.
Chile is the leading cherry supplier to the lucrative Chinese market, to which Argentine received access a few months ago.
Storni highlighted that cherry production in Argentina is distribution along similar latitudes to Chile. In fact, it is "practically a mirror image" of the world's top exporter, he said.
Around 32% of export fruit originates in the province of Chubut. Rio Negro produces 27%, Neuquen 17%, and Mendoza and Santa Cruz each produce 11%.
The representative said that conditions in the growing areas are such that use of agro-chemicals is minimal and organic production is possible.
The season runs from November through February and sends the largest proportion of its exports to the North American market (34%). Other destinations include Asia (27%), Europe (17%), the U.K. (12%), the Middle East (6%) and South America (4%).
Recently, there has been an increasing level of interest in the sector.
"Over the last few months there has been a lot of movement in Argentina. Foreigners and groups that aren't involved in fruit or cherry production are looking at the business and see it as very attractive," Storni said.
Industry challenges and development
Storni also mentioned some of the challenges the Argentine cherry industry faces to position itself as a top-quality exporter.
"We have a lot to work on and to learn. We have come to Chile on various occasions to see how they do it. It is an opportunity that we have to improve the yields and improve the quality of the fruit destined for markets," he said.
He stated that significantly developing exports to China will be a key priority going forward.
"We always look to what Chile is doing in China with great attention," he said.
It will also be important to rely less on air freight, for which he said the commercial window was shrinking. Only 27% of exports were via sea freight last season, and Storni said it was important to increase this figure.
In addition, it will be important for the industry to invest in protection against rainfall and to bring forward the harvests periods.
"In contrast to Chile, our frosts are much more aggressive, with more cold hours," he said.
Other challenges include increasing the number of high-density orchards and gaining permission to use more phytosanitary products.