Chile: Uvanova analyzes severe table grape damage, with losses of over $600M expected

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Chile: Uvanova analyzes severe table grape damage, with losses of over $600M expected

Chilean grape industry body Uvanova has said that losses related to the unseasonal rains in production regions are at least US$600 million, with the situation dire for many growers in the world's top exporting country.

An agricultural catastrophe was declared after the heavy, mid-summer rainfall in southern-central regions on the weekend of Jan. 30 caused widespread damage to crops. Table grapes are the hardest hit fruit crop, with mid-season varieties bearing the brunt of the damage.

Uvanova said the damage can be summarized as the concurrence of three main factors: the large amount of rainfall (up to 100mm in some areas in the VI region), the number of days that the fruit remained underwater, and the high humidity in the three weeks following the rain event which favored the growth of fungi.

The organization said this developing event has "made it impossible for control and mitigation measures to be effective".

"Week after week we have witnessed the increasing deterioration of the fruit. The technical sector has made every effort to control the negative consequences caused to the fruit by the rains, hail and permanent fog, without achieving effective results, as a result of the measures implemented by producers and workers, which have had a considerable cost," it said.

To date, Chile has exported 15 million boxes (equivalent to 8.2 kilos). The III and IV regions, which were not affected by the rains, are estimated to supply around 20 million boxes. The remaining balance, equivalent to 60 million boxes, comes from the affected area, Uvanova said.

“The consensus of the advising team that makes up Uvanova is that Aconcagua, which produces 15 million boxes, would present losses between 45-55 percent," it said.

"For the Metropolitan Region the loss could reach around 60 to 70 percent of its total of 15 million and for Region VI, whose contribution is around 30 million boxes, a final loss of 70 to 80 percent could be expected."

It said it was clear that the higher the amount of rainfall, the greater the loss.

"Thus, of the 60 million boxes from the affected regions, between 18 and 22 million boxes could be exported. However, this will depend on the operability of the harvests, availability of labor and the behavior of the weather during the rest of the season," it said.

"We believe that it is absolutely necessary to be honest about this harsh reality, which is built from an eminently technical point of view, since trying to anesthetize the current situation may lead to incurring more expenses and to the worst business of all, which is to export fruit that has no chance of arriving in adequate condition to our distant markets."

The level of rot in the orchards, the high load of inoculum present today in the orchards, makes forecasting arrival condition "practically an impossible challenge", it added.

Therefore, investing in activities like harvesting, cleaning, packing, cooling, transportation, and materials for the rest of the season "may constitute a decision that does nothing more than double the loss".

"Finally, we call on our growers to make a deep evaluation of this reality, to privilege our efforts in those orchards and varieties that present less damage, to invest in them in order to do the best possible job, so as to hope that our post-harvest will allow that fruit arrive in good conditions," it said.

"When in doubt, we recommend not pushing beyond what is reasonable, which will only increase the damage in the end."

The organization added: “The season will end earlier than usual and we estimate a loss of no less than $600 million, so as an association we call on the entire industry, from production to exports to come together in the face of this disaster and support producers in various areas".

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