The Chilean grape season began a few weeks ago, with the northern regions of the country being the first to harvest. To learn about the current situation and the projection of the campaign, FreshFruitPortal.com spoke to key industry players.
Catalina Cohen, Frutera Aguas Blancas’ commercial and marketing director, which is part of the Frutas de Chile (formerly ASOEX) grape committee, indicates that the sector is projecting a 5.2% volume increase year-on-year, which would in total 63 million boxes.
"I see a promising start to the season, I think we will be close to 57 million boxes, which is within the projection. There is a good hope that the season will be very good, I have my doubts, because there is still a long way to go and weather events can give us a tremendous surprise," adds Uvanova VP Dragomir Lujbetic.
Similarly, Subsole Commercial Manager Andro Vidal says that fruit is showing good quality.
"We have a considerable advance in the Copiapó valley, we are almost four weeks ahead of last season, which was much later in the III region,” Vidal says.
Frutera Santa María General Manager Christian Corseen says that he has been able to observe an advance compared to last year, with a ten day head start.
"So far the fruit looks good, with good caliber. Different phenological stages are observed within the plant, which makes harvesting slower because it will be necessary to make several passes," he points out.
As for new cultivars, Uvanova President Rafael Dominguez says that white varieties are going strong.
"Autumn Crisp and Sweet Globe, Timpson, Arra 15 and Ivory are the main white varieties we’re working with this season. In the red varieties, Timco has fallen back and Allison has consolidated as a good variety, as has Sweet Celebration. In terms of flavor, the Cotton Candy variety is complex to produce, but very attractive to the market. And other varieties such as Candy Hearts and Candy Crunch have their niches," he says.
Dominguez explains that the U.S. normally takes half of Chile’s overall table grape production, making it the top destination market.
"In addition, Peru has a lower domestic market supply as a result of the hurricane, which will result in 20 to 30 million fewer boxes, which is undoubtedly good for us. Also the fact that Peru will have less volume as a result of El Niño, which has affected the quality of their bunches and now the condition of the fruit," he says.
According to Dragomir Lujbetic, the markets will remain very similar to last year. "Our main markets will continue to be the U.S., the Far East and, in a smaller measure, Europe."
U.S. grape production is also projected down this year, with a decrease of 30 million boxes estimated for California. And with Peru seeing a 28% drop, the Chilean table grape industry is hoping to regain steam.
Catalina Cohen indicates that this "will allow the Chilean fruit to reach the markets and be sold, thus avoiding overstocking and maintaining a healthy and even price. Another relevant point is that Peru’s campaign ends at the end of March-April, so we will have a month and a half of a window of opportunity. Chile must reposition itself with its brand, with quality and its new varieties."