Chilean table grapes: Struggle to get Systems Approach approved

During the 2023 Global Produce and Floral Show, one of the world's largest ag events which took place in Anaheim, California on Oct. 19-21, met with the agricultural attaché of the Chilean embassy in the United States, Andres Rodriguez to understand the current status of negotiations for the approval of the Systems Approach for Chilean table grapes.

Rodriguez expressed his and the Chilean fruit industry's desire for the process, which has been in the pipeline for more than 23 years, to be approved so that table grapes from northern Chile can be shipped to the United States without needing methyl bromide fumigation.

"A technical agreement was finally reached between the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Chilean Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG), which is ready to be published in the Federal Register after being widely supported during the public comment period," said Rodriguez.

"Unfortunately, in the last days of August we found that the United States raised an issue regarding the modernization of Chile's agreement with the European Union (EU) that recognizes certain European geographical indications which established certain names that are protected for use in the Chilean market in different products, but especially, and what is of greatest concern to the U.S. are cheeses. This has temporarily paused the publication of the Systems Approach for table grapes," Rodriguez added.

The agricultural attaché indicates that the approval of the agreement will be a benefit for grape growers in Chile since exporting without methyl bromide allows the product to have a better condition and quality.

Likewise, this offers importers, retailers, and consumers in the U.S. the opportunity to access a higher quality product in the off-season, as it can perfectly complement local production.

"This generates a series of benefits for the U.S. producer, as having a good quality product in the off-season improves market conditions for the grape industry," Rodriguez said.

Sense of urgency

Chile is on the verge of starting its 2023-24 table grape season, so pushing forward the process to export this year under the regulation is a priority for all the entities involved.

"The technical agreement and the standard are finalized and ready to be published, today this is a one hundred percent political issue, and we depend only on the political will of the United States to be able to publish the agreement," said Rodriguez.

Next steps

Although it is not possible at this time to guarantee a date when the agreement will be approved, Rodriguez assures that both the public and private sectors in Chile will continue to make every effort to successfully finalize this project.

"Today this is a priority for Chile, and we are working together to achieve the agreement," Rodriguez added.

Despite the difficulties in signing the Systems Approach, Rodriguez is optimistic and confident that they will be able to finalize the process, due in part to the historical relationship between the two countries.

"This year we celebrate 20 years with the free trade agreement between Chile and the United States, which has been beneficial for both countries. We have boosted our exports and doubled our agricultural and forestry exports to the United States during this period, from US$2 billion to more than US$4 billion," said Rodriguez.

On the other hand, the United States has increased its ag exports to Chile eightfold, demonstrating the shared benefit of the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

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