Chilean plums systems approach

A US decision to allow imports of Chilean plums grown in the VI and VII regions under a Systems Approach is enabling exporters to meet growing demand and delivering fresher fruit to consumers.

Thanks to a coordinated effort involving the entire supply chain from Chilean growers, authorities and their US counterparts has allowed the Chilean industry to optimise the process of exporting Chilean fresh plums.

Over the past two years, Chilean exporters have faced phytosanitary restrictions as well as logistics and transportation problems. But they are overcoming these issues via a Systems Approach and alternative transportation options.

Oscar Venegas is part of the commercial team of C&L Fruit Chile, a family business with more than 40 years of fruit-growing experience in Chile.

Since January 2022, Chilean plum growers and exporters have been shipping fruit to the US under a USDA approved Systems Approach.

“Implementing the Systems Approach presented an opportunity to achieve a standard for our plums in Chile, meeting the demands of the Chile’s Agricultural Service and Livestock (SAG), the USDA and the APHIS,” says Venegas.

“We’ve also been able to certify the reception, packaging and dispatch (packing) facilities in the community of Rengo, in Central Chile.”

Following discovery of the European vine moth (EGVM) in 2021, the US tightened import rules for fresh plums in March 2021, which are in high demand during the Northern Hemisphere winter.

Officials with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) required Chilean exports to be irradiated within the US, in places certified under North American legislation.

After an intensive programme of multilateral work, fruit growers in Chile’s VI and VII regions have been given the green light to export under standards accepted by US authorities and obtain a fast track for Chilean shipments.

“The coordination effort has paid off,” says Venegas. “Chilean plums have managed to conquer the North American market and compete with those imported from other latitudes, and thus cover the growing demand from the US.”

Exporting via the Systems Approach has been crucial for Chilean growers. “The original solution proposed by the USDA to make GATEWAY America raised costs by US$0.50 a carton,” explains Venegas.

“It made certifying even three containers a week a difficult task. Since Chilean shipments of fruit exports amount to 30 per cent of the country’s entire production, this was not a feasible solution. The approval and implementation of the Systems Approach at the orchard level helped speed processes.”

Chilean plum exporters have also faced significant challenges in transportation and particularly maritime issues.

“Maritime logistics problems are also being addressed,” says Venegas. “C&L Fruit currently ships 100 pallets a week to Walmart via Miami by air freight. From that entry point, it is easier to reach the entire East Coast.