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Chilean fruit industry assessing frost damage

Evaluations are under way to determine how much damage has been done to Chile's winter fruit crop as a result of recent frosts.

Mike Rodgers, director of East Coast operations for Giumarra Vineyards, told The Produce News Oct. 9 that "it is too early to tell" what damage cold weather has done in Chile. "Most of the damage is to stone fruit and cherries. Grapes have been hit, [but] we don't know how bad."

Rodgers, whose office is in Wilmington, DE, said there were two freezes six days apart.

"The biggest thing is a lack of water in the valley," which is central to Chile's fruit production, he said. "Then you have the freezes. It could be 20 percent damage but it's too early to tell."

Tom Mastromarco, director of fruit marketing and customer service for Holt Oversight & Logistical Technologies, located in Gloucester City, NJ, said, "The information is sketchy. There are not specifics. I can't confirm anything and my various sources are contradictive. Who do you believe?"

An Oct. 8 press release from the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association, based in Santiago, Chile, said the country is "assessing the impact of an unusual succession of frosts that have occurred in Chile, as well as other Southern Hemisphere countries, since mid-September. Growers and technicians are urgently undertaking preliminary evaluations to assess the complete impact of the adverse climatic affects."

The Chilean Fruit release continued, "While occasional frosts are not uncommon, such a prolonged period of frost during such a concentrated time period is unprecedented in recent memory. Many fruit plantations, especially the early varieties, were in different early phonological stages, including the development of buds, flowers and new stems. It is expected that another 10 to 12 days of analysis will be required in order to arrive at an accurate assessment of the damage and reliable forecasts. At this point, it is premature to offer an assessment of potential losses incurred by the industry, but it appears that the most affected crops are kiwifruit, plums, peaches, nectarines, almonds, nuts and cherries."

The Chilean Fruit Exporters Association has presented to the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Commission of the Senate a series of proposals for immediate actions to address this issue. The document proposes a series of concrete actions designed to alleviate the impact on the growing sector as much as possible.