Fedefruta and Asoex in the process of assessing the damage caused by prolonged and extensive frosts

A prolonged cold snap across large parts of Chile’s fruit producing area is believed to have affected evergreen crops such as citrus and avocados.

Jorge Valenzuela

Jorge Valenzuela

Jorge Valenzuela, president of fruit producer federation Fedefruta, said he had received reports from growers in several regions that frosts have not only been more extensive than usual but also lasted much longer, causing as-yet unquantifiable damage to crops.

“The frosts have been very prolonged and very extensive in the national territory, so they have not only affected the central and southern areas,” he said.

“We have reports of very hard freezes for the production of fruit further north, such as citrus and avocados, and we are approaching the regional unions to measure the impact of this situation that is still developing.”

In areas such as Chimbarongo, Graneros and Mostazal in the O’Higgins Region, temperatures fell below -6oC, and the frosts lasted more than 12 hours. In San Felipe, Valparaíso Region, the minimum temperature recorded was -10oC.

Valenzuela said the situation was “very concerning” for fruit trees. “Some producers had to work all night standing up with wind machines to prevent damage, and they are informing us that ’there hadn’t been any cases,” he said.

“We will continue registering and collecting testimonials to help assess the impact of the frosts and, if necessary, come to the aid of the affected farmers together with the authorities.”

Montserrat Valenzuela, manager of Chile’s Citrus Committee, commeted: “In the citrus production areas, most of the orchards are in positions that are more protected from the cold within the valleys, and the orchards in areas that are more exposed have frost control systems, which have been activated”.

She continued: “It is premature to determine if there is damage to the fruit, and if damage does occur due to these frosts, they will be exhaustively evaluated in the field”.

The Citrus Committee has developed a Frost Action Manual so that producers and exporters can follow a precise and disciplined work plan to prevent fruit damaged by low temperatures from being exported.

These actions include the installation of thermographs in the orchards, the temporary suspension of harvests in the affected orchards or sectors until the fruit is reviewed and it is confirmed that it complies with the corresponding export requirements.

Carlos Cruzat, president of the Chilean Kiwifruit Committee, said no damage had been detected to kiwifruit as yet. “Although there were quite low temperatures in several areas, this is not a big problem at this time of the year because it helps to shed the leaves and the plant prepares to enter total recess,” he said.

However, he warned there might be a risk for Psa, which is activated by low temperatures, and that orchards should be closely monitored and the necessary measures implemented in needed.