Argentine topfruit producers are facing one of their worst seasons in history due to weak prices on global markets, lower production and declining profitability, according to the Argentine Chamber of Integrated Fruit Producers (Cafi).
The warning comes as government data shows a collapse in exports at the outset of the 2015 campaign. Apple and pear shipments from the Río Negro province were down by 92 per cent and 52 per cent respectively for the first 45 days of 2015 compared with the same period last year, equivalent to a fall of 18,000 tonnes.
The figures, reported in Agencia Digital de Noticias, correspond to shipments from the ports of San Antonio Este and Bahía Blanca to 15 February. They show that 231 tonnes of apples were shipped, compared to 2,816 tonnes in the year-earlier period, while in pears, 13,828 tonnes were exported, down from 29,054 a year ago.
A report by the regional government estimates that if the present market conditions continue, the industry could be facing total losses of more than US$83m this year. Cafi said the devaluation of the rouble and euro, high Northern Hemisphere stocks, labour unrest and weather related production losses were taking a heavy toll on the regional economy, leading to “lower employment, fewer resources being available for the entire supply chain and falling revenues for the government”.
The organisation has called for the immediate implementation of emergency measures agreed recently by the regional and state governments, which includes the establishment of a credit facility of up to ARS300m (US$34m) by the National Bank of Argentina at a subsidised rate of 6 per cent, and says additional financial and economic support is vital in order to mitigate the effects of the crisis.