Chile: Key fruit exports facing tough competition

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Chile: Key fruit exports facing tough competition

Chilean fruit this year saw an important change, with cherries becoming the most exported category by value over the country's traditionally dominant table grape exports.

Overall, the Chilean fruit industry experienced a similar season to 2018, president of Fruit Exporters' Association (ASOEX) Ronald Bown told

But export volumes reached 2.7m metric tons (MT) - a 5% decline from the previous year - as the industry noted critical changes in markets. Competition in destination markets proved difficult across some major fruit categories.

Cherry exports were a notable exception, with the value of shipments rising by 29.4% in 2019 amid strong demand from China and heavy production. 

Strong blueberry competition

But while cherries have prospered in recent seasons, other categories suffered declines, such as blueberries and other summer fruits at the start of their export season.

"The beginning of the Chilean fruit season, which was in the last three months of 2019, is when Peru increased its presence in markets," Bown said.

He went on to explain that this presence has had an impact on pricing, with peak volumes from Peru putting pressure on Chilean fruit.

"Additionally, Mexico sent more fruit than usual to the U.S. and Morroco at the end of its season, causing a similar impact at the beginning of Chile's season."

Lemon competition intensifies

Meanwhile, lemon exports have also been affected.

"The main market for Chilean lemons is the U.S. Competition has intensified over the last couple of years after Argentina entered the market."

In 2019, the U.S. received 81,796MT of lemons from the Southern Hemisphere. This 27% increase from the previous year was not reflected in Chilean volumes. Specifically, Chilean lemons saw similar volumes in 2018 and 2019 - representing 67% of all lemons from the region.

Its competition, Argentina, sent 29% of all lemon exports to the U.S. This is 71% more than in 2018 - a significant increase relative to Chile's volumes across time.

"California also has more lemons in storage since Mexico and, even, Spain have increased their offers in the market. Therefore, it impacts prices," Bown said.

As markets diversify their selection of fruit, Chilean fruit faces a big challenge. So, to ensure that Chilean fruit performs well in markets, it's important to maintain high quality and be consistent, added Bown.

Although it faces challenges, Chile has key advantages when it comes to phytosanitary conditions.

"As a country, we do not have fruit flies and the diseases that come with them. This is a big benefit in comparison to Argentina," he said.

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