Early South American cherries could be in short supply after reports that rain and hail have caused significant damage to production in parts of central Chile and Argentina.
Investigators from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile estimate that up to 40 per cent of early cherry production in central regions has been damaged or lost after heavy rains in October.
Most recently, one major grower-exporter tweeted on Wednesday: “Central Chile had 10-15mm of rain last night which had affected cherry harvests. Strong wind and cold temperatures at dawn were also registered.”
Marlene Ayala, a specialist in cherry production from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile said early varieties like Royal Dawn, Brooks and Santina which are due to be harvested soon are the worst affected.
“Unexpected heavy rainfall that occurs when the fruit is starting to turn red and the sugars are forming can be very damaging because it causes the fruit to swell and the skin to split,” she told local newspaper El Rancaguino.
In Argentina, meanwhile, one of Neuquén’s biggest producers, Vista Alegre, reported that it had lost its entire cherry crop after last week’s rain and hailstorms. Managing director Carlos Enríquez said 600 tonnes of cherries that were due to be airfreighted to the US and Asia had been destroyed.
“I have never seen such a destructive storm in my life,” Enríquez said. “It has not only wiped out 200ha of cherry production but also caused 300 seasonal workers in the field and packhouse to lose their jobs.”
Vista Alegre has invested tens on millions of dollars in cherry production in recent years having identified a lucrative commercial window in November and early December before the peak of Chilean volumes come on stream.