By Carolina Cruz, president of Chilean grape association UVANOVA
The changes that the table grape industry has undergone in recent years have been dizzying and have put all the experience and expertise of producers, technicians and the entire production chain associated with the export of this species to the test.
Integrating new varieties with better productive capacities and ease of handling when the profitability of grapes was being strongly affected by rising costs, became a necessity.
We quickly had to test if the grapes adapted to our conditions, evaluate the fruit's post-harvest life and rate of acceptance in the destination markets.
However, other challenges have come about that have to do with the ability to adapt to the effects of climate change, within which the drought that has hit Chile for more than ten years is the very severe.
There is a strong decrease in the area planted mainly in the north-central zone due to the availability of water and towards the south many areas have been replaced by other fruits such as cherry and walnut trees.
Other aspects such as out-of-season rains, frosts, reduction of cold hours and heat waves have led us to forcefully coin and put into practice the term of protected agriculture.
Every grape project must consider the use of some preventive measures against adverse climatic factors, efficient measures for the control and administration of irrigation water and conduction systems that facilitate the work of the labor force. The rains that occurred last season left deep marks and damages in this industry.
The pandemic also forced changes such as the development and adoption of hygiene procedures, personnel capacity, new forms of marketing and communication.
Consumption trends towards some fruits recognized for their higher vitamin C content also influenced the demand for grapes.
The lack of personnel in the ports both to load and unload at the destination, transformed the transit of cargo into trips much longer than expected, affecting post-harvest life.
These are very complex times and although all seasons have challenges, a unprecedented challenge has arrived. Export logistics, container availability problems and rising rates have made some countries with significant domestic consumption question exporting the fruit.
The message to the producers is to look toward taking maximum care of the pre and post-harvest.
It is a fact that the transit times will be greater this year, therefore, the order, the discipline and technique will need to be very present in our business decisions. Compliance with previously agreed upon programs is part of the trust in the seller and buyer relationship.
It is more necessary than ever to make our buyers understand that today we are subjected to a serious situation of extra costs, not only in Chile and not only in the table grape business, but also in fruit growing in general. This rise in costs is also associated with increases in the price of labor, packaging materials, transportation, services and supplies.
This requires us to be vigilant, make well-thought-out and collective decisions, to be efficient in our work and practice excellent handling during the packing process since this is an industry that must be planned for the next 100 years.
This season we start with abundant and uniform sprouting as well as with a high supply of bunches, which will allow us to select the best ones. So far this spring there has been a delay of between seven to 10 days compared to the previous season.
It will be key to put into practice all the learnings of the past year and understand that sometimes abandoning fruit can be a better business than forcing a product that will not meet the quality and condition standards that markets demand today.
Chile has history and culture around grapes, we will not collapse, this is our way of life, it is what we have been perfecting for years and we know how to overcome all these situations.
Let's go grapes!!!