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Quality seal to highlight attributes of Chilean early-season grapes

by Press Release | October 24, 2011

A public-private partnership in Chile has launched the country’s first certified seal for early table grapes, highlighting quality characteristics unique to the Northern Atacama region.

Chilean early grapes have been popular with U.S. consumers for many years, but this new quality certification seal, called FreshAtacama, seeks to differentiate the product further with a consistent season guarantee.

The initiative represents the first time that growers, exporters and government institutions have come together to work on a quality certification of its kind for the area. The FreshAtacama certification project is part of the government-backed Territorial Innovation Program aimed at helping the industry boost competitiveness.

The seal will particularly look at the consistency in fruit quality and if it is healthy, well finished and turgid. The seal will also consider the unique characteristics of the region of origin and if there is socially and environmentally responsible production.

“The dry desert climate of the Copiapó and Huasco Valleys gives our grapes a crispy intense flavor and consistency,” Nelson Núñez, program coordinator, said in an Oct. 24 press release. “This quality will now be guaranteed by the FreshAtacama Seal of Excellence. Our region’s farmers persevere in their commitment to providing excellent table grapes.”

The seal will kick off with a pilot program of 500,000 cases bound for the U.S. market this year and will likely expand to Asian export markets in the coming seasons.

“We look forward to what this seal means for our industry,” Manuel José Alcaíno, president of market consultancy Decofrut, added in the press release. “Grape-growing in the desert requires a high level of seriousness and commitment. This early fruit industry has developed through great efforts. The process requires a breed of entrepreneur encompassing a high level of sacrifice and vision for the future.”

The Atacama region is expected to export a total of 107,441 metric tons of table grapes this year, with harvests starting in the second week of November with the Perlette and Flame seedless varieties. The region also produces the Sugraone, Thompson seedless, black seedless, Red Globe, Autumn Royal and Crimson seedless varieties. The grapes are renowned for being well finished and turgid, while the climatic conditions help protect crops from fungal diseases.

“One of our key strengths is the climatic conditions that help avoid disease,” Nicolas del Rio, a grower in Alto Del Carmen, added in the press release. “The sanitary conditions of the zone allow us to produce foods with an absence of fungus or the majority of risks associated with microbiological contamination.”

“The region has all the necessary infrastructure and conditions to deliver the best product,” Endraos Nicolas, a grower in Los Loros, added in the press release. “Produced in the most arid desert in the world, our grapes are known for their great quality and intense flavor. This is complemented by progressive advances in certification material and infrastructure for workers, and compliance with labor laws.”

The implementation of the seal is also a result of significant investments in irrigation systems due to the geographic conditions of the desert, and in sustainability and innovation projects that support the efficiency of procedures.

The Territorial Innovation Program is financed by the regional government, supervised and administered by the Agricultural Innovation Foundation under the Ministry of Agriculture, and executed by the Rural Sector Social Development Corp.