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Chile excels as world leader in fresh production and exports

Anyone who deals in or is even mildly familiar with the amount of fresh produce that is imported into North America every year from Chile understands the importance of the partnerships that are maintained by these annual movements.

This is only added to by the fact that Chile is known worldwide as a leader in understanding how to produce fresh produce specifically for export. The Chilean trade has the export processes and procedures down to a fine science. gourmet-trading-chile-farmA blueberry farm under cultivation in Chile. Chile is expert at growing produce suited for the export process. (Photo courtesy of Gourmet Trading Co.)Professionals from around the world — including producers in other countries — visit the country regularly to learn techniques and gather wisdom from Chile’s experts.

The United States enjoys a symbiotic relationship with Chile. The country ranks sixth among Florida’s top product export destinations, with over $3.9 billion in exports in 2011. Florida exports to Chile increased at a rate of 24.3 percent through October 2012. In the Miami Customs District, which stretches from the Florida Keys to Port St. Lucie, Chile ranked the eighth largest trading partner in 2012, according to a World City analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

According to information provided by the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association of the United States, presented at the Fresh Produce & Floral Council Southern California Expo 2013, the U.S. received 74 percent of total Chilean citrus exports in 2012.

Also in 2012, the U.S. imported fresh blueberries valued at nearly $419.8 million, a 12 percent increase from the previous year. Just over 50 percent of those fresh blueberries originated in Chile, which provides fresh blueberries to U.S. markets during the period of mid-November through January.

Canada shares a high demand for Chilean fruit with the U.S. According to a press release issued by Chilean Fresh Fruit Association in May 2013, Loblaws, a leading Canadian supermarket chain, increased its use of Chilean fruit by more than 20 percent during an import promotional period earlier in the year. Loblaws has a turnover of around $30 billion in retail sales and serves more than 14 million shoppers a week. It also has over a thousand stores across the entire Canadian territory.

According to information provided by Fernando Balart, marketing manager for the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (commonly referred to as ASOEX) for North America and Latin America, the campaign was developed for nine weeks during the first quarter of 2013, and consisted of a competition-based sale of Chilean fruit in more than 400 Loblaws’ stores and associated sub-brands in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

Chilean producers and shippers also have their occasional problems, which are often, but not always, associated with weather. Shippers everywhere in the world occasionally slip up, and that stands true for Chilean professionals as it does in every country, including the United States.

Despite what can and sometimes does go wrong, it is evident that North America is highly dependent on seasonal produce from Chile. The question is: Can Chile continue to support North America’s growing demand into the future?

There is also another issue to consider when thinking about the future relationship between the U.S. and Chile and other South American and Central American countries. Geographically they may be closer than other nations, like those of Asia or Europe, but fresh produce moves quickly today, and markets on other continents demand high-quality produce from countries that know how to grow and export them as much as customers in North America do.

This is what makes another press release, this one dated Nov. 8, from the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association very interesting. It states that there is an “intense promotional campaign in the works to promote Chilean blueberries in Europe.”

The release states that campaigns will take place in Germany, England, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Turkey, Poland and Russia.

The Chilean Blueberry Committee and ASOEX, with support from the Fund for the Promotion of Agricultural Exports from the Ministry of Agriculture, run by ProChile, are planning to develop various promotional and marketing activities in order to promote the consumption of fresh Chilean blueberries in major European markets.

Germany, the United Kingdom and Denmark already have markets with growing Chilean blueberry consumption. The promotional campaigns will focus on consolidating the marketing programs made in previous seasons. In Germany, during January and February, the Chilean Blueberry Committee and ASOEX will publish news and advertising in magazines operated by Rewe and Real supermarkets. This strategy will inform consumers about the products’ availability, quality and food safety, encouraging purchase.

In the U.K., during December and January, the programs will be aimed at the publication of articles and recipes in various European magazines.

In the press release, Andrew Armstrong, general manager of the Chilean Blueberry Committee, stated, “These actions will enable us to inform British consumers about availability, quality and food safety of our blueberries, as well as their health benefits for those who habitually consume them. Meanwhile, recipes will allow us to show the various forms of consumption.”

Chile is obviously pumping up its production to meet the growing international demand, or at least those involved with importing its produce would hope. In the meantime there’s little else to do than to acknowledge that Chile has become a world leader in the production and exportation of fresh produce.