Appalling storms hammer Chilean peaches, apples, cherries and more
Kiwifruits, grapes, pears, almonds and plums also damaged in “once in 50 years” weather event
Rain and hailstorms have caused serious damage to a wide variety of key Chilean crops. The storms, which struck on November 12, produced hailstorms almost as big as golf balls.
The timing could hardly have been worse: it is late spring in Chile, and the apple and pear orchards were full of trees laden with immature fruit, while the kiwifruit and grapes were in their flowering period and the early cherries almost ready for harvesting.
Chile’s Agriculture Minister, Antonio Walker, has described the situation as “quite serious”. Ronald Brown, president of ASOEX, the fresh fruit exporters’ association, has said that some growers of blueberries, cherries, stone fruit, kiwifruit and table grapes have lost almost all their production.
ASOEX’s Cherry Committee is evaluating the damage and has already decided to postpone its forecast, which was due to be published tomorrow (Thursday November 15), but has already predicted a fall in exports of at least 5%. Carlos Cruzat, president of the Kiwi Committee of Chile, has told local media that the most significant damage was caused by hail, mainly in the foothills of the O'Higgins and Maule Sur regions. This committee is also evaluating the extent of the damage.
Apples and grapes
Another said: "Bad news. Chile has not had something like this in at least 50 years."
According to the preliminary damage estimate (see table below), about 3,900 hectares (one-fifth of the region’s apple orchards) have been hit, and a quarter of its area planted to grape. Chile has some 33,000 ha of apple orchards, so this is a loss of some 15% of the national crop. Chile’s grape industry is rather more widely spread than its apples, however.
Plums and nuts
The latest governmental report noted that 8,730 hectares of plum tree orchards were affected. However, sources of the industry expressed optimism as the O’Higgins Region, the most affected, is not an important origin for plums and prunes. “We were a little worried hours after the storm, although we have been checking trees and the hailstorms downed late and unmatured fruit. However, not many trees have been affected because it is not a flowering or blooming period yet,” Mario Garcés of Comfrut told IEG Vu.
“These kinds of hailstorms are much more frequent in the neighbouring Argentine region of Mendoza but not in Chile. Chilean plum and prune growers and processor may be quiet at this moment of the year,” Garcés added.
Walnuts and almonds have suffered significant losses.
The peach orchard area affected in O’Higgins region as of November 13 is 657.5 ha – around 12.5% of the total area in the region. Most of the peaches should be destined to the fresh market from late December.
O’Higgins is the main peach area in Chile, where around 1,064 ha are for peach to be consumed as fresh (of a total of 2,000 ha in the country) and 4,253 ha for canning ,of a total planted area of 7,750 ha for the 2018/19 season.
“The weather is affecting all kind of peaches. I estimate loses of around 3,000 tonnes,” a local industry source told IEG Vu today (November 14).
“Some growers in Codegua are claiming the damage to peach orchards, Cherries, nectarines, kiwi and pomaces is of 100%,” a Chile-based IEG Vu source said. “Peach losses in Mostazal and Codegua areas are reported to be between 80-100%,” added another one.
Hailstorms in #Chile. #Apples, #cherries, #grapes, #blueberries, #peaches all hit. 15% of apple area hit #freshapples. #AJC. More details as we get them. @Chilealimentos @AconcaguaF pic.twitter.com/higeFme3ks— Neil Murray (@NeilatFOODNEWS) November 14, 2018
A third local industry source estimates the affected area in O’Higgins comprises 20% of the total, adding: “In some cases, loses of fruit are up to 100%. If my car is dented, you can imagine the fruits.”
“Rains and hailstorms are also expected to damage late varieties now in blossom,” added ASOEX.
Peach raw material production estimate for processing in the 2018/19 season was 230,000 tonnes, of which 105,000 tonnes should go for canning and 120,000 tonnes for purée, it was reported last month at CANCON14 conference.
About 33.7% (or 1,518 ha) of total pear area in the O’Higgins region is estimated to be affected by the rains and hailstorms.
Total agricultural pear production area in Chile totals 8,200 ha, of which 7.600 ha are destined for canning and puree this year, IEG Vu recently learned at CANCON14.
Pear crop estimates for season 2018/19 reported last month totalled 295,000 tonnes of raw material, of which 60,000 tonnes should be destined for purée, 600 tonnes for canning and what is left, for the fresh market.
Blueberries and cherries
The hailstorms have hit during a critical period for Chilean fruit production, when early cherries are approaching their harvesting period, while blueberry season is in full swing.
The Chilean Blueberry Committee reported some damage to fruit in the Los Andes region, which might result in fruit loss and damage, but said the main producing regions were hardly affected, making the total impact on harvest volumes minimal.
ASOEX’s Cherry Committee’s preliminary estimates suggest around 5% of the cherry volume will be impacted. The orchards most affected were located in Granero, La Punta and Mostazal, but with the bulk (30,000 ha) of cherries spreading from the Valparaíso Region to Aysen, many regions would be unaffected by the recent storms.