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Chilean fruit season heading into full swing

by Tad Thompson | January 05, 2011
The Chilean fruit season hits full swing in mid-January.

Early grape harvest in the Copiapo growing district was delayed at least a couple of weeks, missing Christmas time sales opportunities, according to importers. But that volume was not lost, just delayed until January, when activity should escalate quickly.

Tom Tjerandsen, managing director of North America for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, based in Sonoma, CA, noted that the Chilean deal spans an extended area across a very long country. "There were pockets of problems with weather -- frosts and rain. That always has some impact on the total. I would say we are still cautiously optimistic. What appeared to be bumper harvest across the board now appears to be more normal across the board. It will be a big crop, but not as big as it would have been if Mother Nature hadn't stepped in."

Chile's irrigation reservoirs "are pretty full. There were good winter rains" leading into the season, Mr. Tjerandsen said. Fruit trees had the right amount of cold hours over the Chilean winter. "Those things suggest not only a normal harvest but probably good quality as well."

Mark Greenberg, chief operating officer and senior vice president in charge of procurement for Fisher Capespan, said from his firm's Montreal office that in the Chilean grape deal, "You will see a big volume arrive. There are a lot of grapes just taking their sweet time about it. In the second week of January, expect white and red table grapes begin to kick in."

William Kopke, vice president of Wm. H. Kopke Jr. Inc. in Lake Success, NY, also expects large promotable volumes of grapes by mid-January. He also said that he was "very pleased" by the Chilean fruit quality.

Scott Hulsey, vice president of procurement for Gourmet Trading Co. in Los Angeles, said that the volume and quality of the Chilean blueberry deal are both high. His concern is that record-high processing prices for blueberries will draw volume away from the fresh export deal.

Sandy Gatanio, procurement coordinator of Southern Specialties Inc., based in Pompano Beach, FL, said that Chilean blueberry supplies "will be good, with prices similar to last year."