Chilean cherry industry set for small increase in 2021-22 - USDA

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Chilean cherry industry set for small increase in 2021-22 - USDA

Chilean cherry producers and exporters are looking to maximize exports this season by limiting production per tree in order to increase fruit size and quality, amid expectations for a small increase in volumes this coming season.

Planted area is estimated to hit a new record of 44,000 hectares, which is over an 11 percent increase year on year, but will be offset by a forecasted decrease in yields.

Cherry production is expected to increase only three percent to reach 395,000 metric tons (MT) for the 2021-22 season, according to the USDA report.

So far, this year has been characterized by a winter with high average temperatures and insufficient rainfall, which will likely reduce cherry production potential.

Additionally, according to the Chilean Meteorological Agency, there is a high risk of frost which could affect the bloom.

For the 2021-22 season, Post estimates Chilean cherry exports will decrease by three percent year on year, reaching 364,000MT.

The decrease in exports is due to the adjustments producers will make in order to maximize fruit quality for destination markets, the report stated.

In 2020-21, looking at data until May, cherry exports totaled over 353,000MT, a 54 percent increase year on year.

In the same period, export value increased by 58 percent and totaled almost US$1.9 billion.

With over a 50 percent increase in production from 2019-20 to 2020-21, large production volume presented challenges during production, harvest, and packing last season.

With the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, there were difficulties in finding additional staff to work in the orchards.

As a result, production costs increased significantly, and important tasks such as tree pruning, thinning, harvesting, and packing were difficult to achieve, resulting in a reduction in fruit caliber and quality in many cases.

Chile exports cherries to more than 50 different countries, but China is by far the top market.

Cherry exports to China totaled almost 322,000MT in 2020-21 and represented 91 percent of exports, followed by the U.S. with almost 7,000MT.

It's expected that Chinese demand for cherries will remain strong, however, Chilean exporters are increasingly concerned about reducing market dependency by diversifying their export destinations.

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