Chile is one of the largest exporters of table grapes in the world, however, this season 2022 has been impacted and affected by various factors such as water shortages, rainfall during harvest and the logistical crisis, that have generated alerts and concerns among local producers.
Carolina Cruz, president of Uvanova and Martin Silva director of Uvanova commented to The Grape Reporter: «We have classified the recent past season as one of the worst because previous seasons are very bad due to the effects of water shortages and rainfall during the harvest season. Although from a productive point of view it has been going well, the logistic problems associated with the marine transport, the condition in the ports, the problems with the fumigation have produced an historical deterioration in the condition of the fruit, which drastically affected the marketing of this. In short, a big rise in costs, and a big fall in prices».
«We cannot speak of affected areas, but rather of export dates, where the fruit of harvest from half a season to late is the one with the most problems, is where the real volume of Chilean fruit is expressed. There are late harvest areas in all the table grape producing regions, and it is this export from mid-March onwards that is being most affected».
Regarding the factors that have harmed the table grape season, the specialists detail: «Logistics, costs, prices slumped associated with the condition of the fruit. To this must be added the tremendous impact on the condition of the fruit produced by the fumigation with Methyl Bromide, the break in the cold chain associated with this process, and the high concentration of fruit in the months of March and April, either because of the seasonality of the productive areas, but also because the varietal replacement has targeted a majority of harvest varieties on the date of the Crimson, our main export variety. Although the volume of this has been reduced, it has not been this significant enough to accommodate many varieties of simultaneous harvest, such as Sweet Globe, Autumn Crisp, Allison, Timco, to name a few».
In terms of losses, Cruz and Silva explained that «the liquidations are in full development, the bad news has come through the mouth of exporters, producers who visited the markets and saw the volume of fruit gathered, complete pallets to the garbage, the state of this, the slowness in processes and in the commercialization, comments from the receivers. But the final prices are not yet on the table».
«It is difficult to project, but it is also complex to think of growing numbers. In our opinion the figures could be around 70,000,000 – 75,000,000 million, but clearly these volumes are subject to the financial situation in which producers are left once closed this season added to the situation of regulatory policies for agriculture».
On the varieties that were harmed, experts clarified: «We know that, in recent seasons, there has been a greater demand for white, then red, and a little for black, something like 50%-40%-10%, but the problems already described are transversal. What is imposing itself is a rejection of traditional varieties, which constitute a large percentage of the Chilean supply. There are calibers that have less and less output. Specifically the medium caliber, this is between 16 mm and 17.5 mm, long ago the receivers in the USA come giving lights that do not interest them. Some varieties such as Thompson and Crimson, have a high percentage of medium caliber, for which demand is decreasing».
Actions before a «tremendously complex» season
Given seasons that have been held as difficult for the Chilean table grape industry, what measures should producers implement? According to Cruz and Silva, «The season was evaluated as tremendously complex, difficult and unsustainable to maintain this situation in the future. Therefore, our proposal as Uvanova is to make a global analysis of our industry, and from this analysis, develop strategies for change in the short, medium and long term. What has been happening for about 6 seasons, does not add up».
«In Uvanova we are in a process of analysis of the problem, for years we have been warning of the coming changes and conducting outreach seminars, talks and courses to raise awareness of problems and propose technical strategies aimed at mitigating critical situations. The current reality, however, surpasses what is merely technical and has called us to elaborate a more complete diagnosis, to provide better proposals for improvement,» they emphasized.
On Thursday, July 14, due to constant rainfall, snow fell in various areas of Chile, which caused negative effects on table grapes crops: «The snowfall that accompanied the recent rains did have a negative effect for some producers in the north, where there was a fall of parrones with meshes product of the weight of the snow. We have estimated that the affected surface could reach more than 300 ha. Given the current situation of the grapes any extra cost, as it is to stop the vines and the loss of mesh means a major stumbling block,» said Cruz and Silva.
«Frosts have fallen on dates when the vine is wintering, therefore no major negative effects should occur. The winter cold is good to have a good dormancy, and if there are good spring temperatures, the sprouting can be favored. We are very happy with the rains and snowfalls that we are having, as we see a respite in the Mega Drought that we have suffered during the last decade. For that to say the gratitude and hope that we see in our dear producers of the III, IV and V regions, which are the areas that have been most affected by the lack of water», they maintained
According to the Office of Agricultural Studies and Policies (ODEPA) during the first half of 2022 table grapes ranked second, as one of the most exported fruits, with 602 thousand tons equivalent to USD 921 million FOB, registering an increase in shipments of 15.8% in volume and 1.6% in value, compared to the same period of the previous year, and where the main buyer in this period was the U.S. (which concentrates 48% of the total value of Chilean exports) followed by China (concentrating 14%)
Regarding the key markets of this season, experts said that «Each potential market must be reviewed and analysed commercially, in order to find the best strategy given the complexity of the scenario, also taking into account the impact of the war between Russia and Ukraine. USA has remained our main market for shipments and we will have to be attentive to the situation with Asia that has become an attractive pole for many species, but that as a result of the pandemic was altered».