FreshAtacama grapes Chile

Some 20 per cent of land under grape production has been frost-hit

Parts of Chile have suffered their worst frosts in 20 years, hitting production of almost all major fruit export lines.

According to producers’ federation Fedefruta, the hardest hit area is region VI where more than 55 per cent of the acreage under production has been affected. In the Metropolitan region, 45 per cent of the area under fruit crops has been hit and 40 per cent in region VII.

Temperatures plummeted on 17 September and frost struck 35 to 61 per cent of peach, nectarine, plum and cherry orchards, varying by variety. Kiwifruit vines were also hit with some 48 per cent of acreage nationwide affected. Fedefruta also reports that 20 per cent of grape hectares have been touched and there are instances of damage to pear and blueberry output.

Fedefruta general manager Juan Carlos Sepúlveda said the damage casts a shadow over production and export potential: “A lot of varieties have still not come in full blossom and so we will have to wait for the natural drop to be able to quantify exactly the damage suffered by our fruit and our plantations.” The figures could therefore change and Fedefruta will continue to evaluate the situation, he added.

Federation president Cristián Allende said last week that the frosts were the worst fruit-growers had experienced in 20 years. He added that the losses would undoubtedly affect the labour market as considerably fewer workers would be required during the southern hemisphere spring and summer to harvest and pack crops. “We will do all we can to engage as many workers as possible and not generate unemployment in our sector,” said Allende. “We will do everything we can to minimize grower losses, and we will talk to the authorities about the instruments available and about introducing exceptional measures to at least partially alleviate the problems.”

Fedefruta will also be working closely with the export sector to ensure the best returns for producers, Allende concluded.