Chilean peach, nectarine and plum production is trending lower, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in mid-August.

The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service report said cherries were the lone exception to lower trending stone fruit acreage.

Chilean output of apricots, plums, peaches and nectarines and cherries declined in 2009-10 because of the lack of chilling hours in the winter and frost in the spring.

Planted areas for all varieties except cherries continued to a long term downward trend, the report said.

“Falling economic returns as a result of a revaluation of the Chilean peso against the dollar and increasing production costs encourages farmers to uproot low-producing orchards with the exception of cherries,” the report said.

The FAS said some peach and nectarine varieties often become obsolete because of changing consumer tastes, at times before the orchards begin production.

“This coupled with high price fluctuations during the last few seasons and diminishing returns will most likely prevent any long-term increase in total planted area or production,” the report said.

However, the report said cherry production has grown substantially in northern and the southern fruit production areas. With nearly 40,000 acres planted, the FAS reports that 40% of cherry orchards are still not mature and will increase yields in coming years.

The report noted that Chile has great potential for cherry production since it is one of a few countries that can produce big volumes of Southern Hemisphere cherries and has key climate advantages over South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Chile produces just 2% of total world cherry production, but it meets almost 80% of off-season demand, the report said.