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Chilean fruit volume building

by Tad Thompson | February 23, 2010
GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ -- The refrigerated breakbulk ship Ivory Dawn used two onboard cranes Feb. 22 to discharge pallets of Chilean fruit onto the pier of the Gloucester Marine Fruit Terminal, here.

Tom Mastromarco, director of fruit marketing and customer service for Gloucester Terminals LLC, was pleased by the activity. Chilean fruit volume was picking up in late February, but he said that the terminal's overall volume to date was down 20 percent from the previous year.

"We are hoping to make some of that back," he said, as the late Chilean season push begins. But he does not expect this year to match last season's volume.

The problems began with crop freeze damage in Chile in the fall, and cool weather this harvest season has continued to keep volumes down, he said.

The volume for both Chilean grapes and stone fruit has dropped, Mr. Mastromarco noted. "Berries seem to be OK, but that isn't a tonnage item." Some Chilean berries and cherries are shipped breakbulk as well as in ocean containers. The Chilean cherry season is over, he added.

A second ship containing Argentine pears was also expected to arrive at the terminal, but it hadn't arrived as of Feb. 22. Mr. Mastromarco said that the ship was slightly delayed downstream on the Delaware River with a technical issue involving U.S. Customs & Border Protection. It was expected to arrive a day or two later, marking the beginning of the Argentine pear season.

Like growers in Chile, Argentine fruit growers also have faced a cool production season, which slowed pear production and ripening, he said, noting that the Gloucester Terminal typically has received one or two shiploads of Argentine pears by Feb. 22.