One week after the first two pallets of Chilean fresh figs arrived in the U.S., Western Fresh Marketing Services Inc., Madera, Calif., is receiving repeat orders, said George Kragie, president.

“The fruit is being very well received,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved April 4 bringing the South American figs into the domestic market.

“We’re the first in the country to import fresh figs from Chile,” Kragie said.

Chilean fresh figs get warm reception from U.S. buyers

Courtesy Western Fresh Marketing Services

Pallets of fresh Chilean black mission figs are readied for air freight to the U.S. Madera, Calif.-based Western Fresh Marketing Services Inc. is marketing the fruit in the U.S. The Chilean figs are taken from the fields to anti-pest treatment chambers and then to coolers where the pallets are placed in aluminum bags prior to be flown to the U.S., said George Kragie, president of Western Fresh Marketing. 

The initial shipments of the black missions went to New York, and the first delivery to Los Angeles was April 19, he said. All of the figs are being airfreighted to the U.S., and the f.o.b.s reflect the increased cost.

“The prices are quite high,” Kragie said. “They’re going for $34-38 for cartons of 12 8-ounce clamshells and $22-24 for half trays.”

Western Fresh Marketing had not planned to import Chilean fresh figs this season, but the government’s approval and a grower’s approaching the company’s South American representative altered the plans.

“If you ship them up here, we’ll market them,” Kragie said he told the grower.

The fresh fig industry in Chile is small, but growing, he said. Western Fresh Marketing is scheduled to receive about 18 pallets per week this season, but Kragie said he anticipates larger volumes in the years to come.

Starting in 2012, Chilean fresh figs will be available much earlier.

“Historically, the Chilean fig deal starts in late December or early January, and shipping continues into May,” Kragie said. “So it wraps up just as the California fig harvest begins.”

Unlike other commodities that are treated for pests after arriving in the U.S., the Chilean figs are taken from the fields directly to methyl bromide chambers, Kragie said.

“By treating the figs while they are still warm, we’re able to use less of the pesticide,” Kragie said. “After the fruit is treated, it’s taken to coolers and packed for shipping in aluminum bags.”

In this abbreviated season, the figs are being packed under the Chilean grower’s Amber Fields label, Kragie said, but Western Fresh Marketing plans to begin offering specialty and custom packs starting with the 2012 season.