Chilean ‘summer’ fruit en route to U.S.

From The Packer | 9 November 2023

Overview of fruits from Chile in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on November 7, 2023.

As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter in the U.S., it’s almost summer in the Southern Hemisphere, which means it’s time for Chilean fruit.

Quality should be good this season, and volume was expected to be similar to or slightly less than last year’s numbers.

“We’ll see peaches, plums, nectarines, grapes, blueberries and cherries over the next several months,” said Karen Brux, the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association’s managing director for North America.

Blueberry season will last from November into mid-March; cherries will arrive in the U.S. from December to February; grapes will be available from December to April or early May; and stone fruit will be here from December to April, she said.

Peaches and nectarines are available in the early part of stone fruit season, and plums during the latter part.

“The stone fruit is looking pretty good,” said Marcial Hernandez, vice president of supply and operations for Los Angeles-based Pacific Trellis Fruit, one of the leading U.S. importers of Chilean fruit.

all commodities volumes 5

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Growers are starting to focus more on good-eating white-flesh peach and nectarines varieties, he said.

While stone fruit volume should be similar to last year, blueberry volume will be down, Brux said. But she expected an increase of 5% in global table grape export volume.

“Since the U.S. is the largest export market, taking 56% of total shipments, we expect to see some of that [table grape] increase reflected in shipments to this market,” she said.

Red and green table grapes should be arriving from Chile two weeks earlier than last year, Hernandez said. The earlier start is the result of a warm winter in the northern Chilean growing areas.

“In general, the grape crop is looking very healthy,” he said.

Chilean table grape imports are expected to be similar to last year’s 63.7 million 18-pound boxes, he said.

Hernandez expected to see an increase in proprietary varieties this season.

The cherry committee of the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX) expected growers to produce 95.4 million 5-kilogram (11-pound) boxes, which is a 15% increase over last season, Brux said.

“We’re expanding our promotion program in the U.S. and Canada, so we certainly hope that our volume and our share of total volume will continue to increase,” she said.

The first load of Chilean cherries left for the U.S. in early November, Hernandez said.

Last year, Chilean growers shipped 3.2 million boxes of cherries to the U.S., he said.

Overall acreage of fruit crops in Chile has been declining as growers look at other crops and other markets, said Jim Roberts, president of sales for Salinas, Calif.-based Naturipe Farms.

“In total, we will see lower volumes in the 2023-24 season,” he said. “We are seeing a lot more of the Chilean crop going to Asia and Europe.”

Organic shipments from Chile have been hampered by the European grapevine moth, he said.

However, Brux said, with some category decreases and some increases, the overall volume could end up being similar to last year.

“It’s really too early to tell,” she said in early November.

Roberts said he expected the coming season to have average weather patterns.

“We will need to see how much El Niño has affected Chile to see whether that could change expected volumes.”

So far, weather this season has been “very uneven” in the Chilean growing areas, Hernandez said. “There have been some very warm and some very cold days.”

That could mean a later start than usual in certain areas and an earlier start in others.

Showers in the forecast in early November posed a potential challenge for some growers, but no serious weather-related problems had been reported to date.

“Everything is headed in the right direction so far,” Hernandez said.

Roberts lauded the quality of Chilean fruit.

“The produce coming from Chile are great pieces of fruit that align with the size and quality we see in our domestic programs,” he said. “Our Globally Local program, which encompasses our growers in Chile and throughout South America, allows consumers and retailers to have every berry, every day throughout the year.”

Chilean production enables Naturipe to ensure year-round availability, Roberts said.

“Chile only produces seasonally, so it makes up a smaller percentage of our overall volume, but it comes in during a key part of the year, when Peru is declining in volumes and Mexico production is just getting started,” he said.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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