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An intensive review of the damage to Chilean summer citrus crops caused by recent frost shows that estimated losses range from little or no damage to this year's Clementines, to a maximum 10 percent loss of projected exports of Chilean Navel oranges and lemons, to a 10 percent loss of the season's Mandarin exports for 2011.

This year's total Chilean fresh citrus exports to the United States had previously shown a projected 10 percent increase in volume above 2010, according to Juan Enrique Ortuzar, president of the Chilean Citrus Committee. Despite news of the freeze, seedless Navels are still expected to lead the Chilean varieties in volume during their season from June through October.

Additionally, volume for late Mandarins, originally expected to increase nearly 10 percent during their August-through-September season, is expected to remain similar to last season's volume.

Imported citrus fruits can represent 30-40 percent of category sales during summer months. Recent data from The Perishables Group, based in Chicago, indicates that demand for citrus fruit is on the upswing, with more growth projected.

As a result, the citrus category has become a staple to the produce department, with imported fruit increasing retailers' produce sales by closing the seasonal supply gaps.

The Chilean Citrus Committee, recognizing the need to assure that only the finest-quality fruit is scheduled for shipment to North America, has instituted a training program that shows growers and shippers how to inspect fruit for any freeze damage. This program has been very successful at monitoring export shipments so fruit will pass customer inspections easily upon arrival.

Chile has become a leader in exported fruit and a dependable source for retailers to rely on to bridge seasonal gaps.

"The Chilean Fresh Fruit Association is the only citrus exporter that provides retail promotional and sales support materials, and the program is expanding in 2011," Tom Tjerandsen, North American director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, said in an Aug. 24 press release.

Materials include a variety of merchandising tools to increase retailer sales such as point-of-sale resources and an on-line retailer training video with in-store best practices, moderated by retail produce expert Dick Spezzano.

The association's regional merchandisers provide direct promotional support to retailers. Their contact information is posted under "Retailer Support" at www.chileanfreshfruit.com.

Chile is the leading fresh fruit exporter from the Southern Hemisphere, accounting for more than 59 percent of fruit exports considering grapes, apples, kiwi, avocados, nectarines, peaches and pears, according to the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association. Today the Chilean fresh fruit industry exports more than 75 different varieties to more than 100 different countries.