A freeze in early October should only mildly hurt shipments from Chile, sources say.
“This year, the freeze was slight. It’s a little early to know for sure, but overall, it’s not expected to have a significant impact on the core commodities,” said Dirk Winkelmann, director, Nathel International, Pittsgrove, N.J.
“The effects seem to be isolated and random,” said Evan Myers, director of South American imports for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.
“We have seen reports that growers on one side of the road might have been affected while not on the other side,” Myers said.
Karen Brux, managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, San Carlos, Calif., said reductions in the production and export of various commodities are not expected to be significant.
“We are still anticipating healthy volume increases for all fruits coming to this market over the next several months, whether cherries, blueberries, grapes or stone fruit,” Brux said.
Myers said plums were among the commodities hit this year, but losses won’t compare to last year’s losses.
“There was maybe a 50% reduction in plums last year, while we might see a 15% loss this year,” he said.
The decrease in production will affect total shipped volumes, but Myers is confident the market won’t see a drastic change.
“This event wasn’t massive enough to see the markets react like they did last year,” he said.
Kiwifruit and citrus
Myers also said some citrus and kiwifruit were affected but that it was too early to know how much damage had been done.
“We don’t see those full effects until the fruit really starts to set,” he said, again emphasizing this was nothing like what growers were faced with last year.
“There could be some more long term effects than we are aware of right now, but last year, everyone knew right away they were looking at devastating losses, which we don’t see right now,” Myers said.
Chris Kragie, deciduous fruit manager for Madera, Calif.-based Western Fresh Marketing, said the kiwifruit crop should be about 80% of what a normal year would be, on its way back up after recovering from last year’s devastation.
“It will be working back towards normal for the next two or three years, but it will be more than last year,” Kragie said.
Winkelmann said he expects a fairly normal season for grapes, but even that expectation is hard to define.
“It’s hard to say what’s normal with the drought concerns, freezes, and general drop in production,” he said.
Winkelmann said growers have reduced grape acreage for a few reasons. Some are replanting with new grape varieties, but others are putting in new crops entirely.
Mario Flores, director of blueberry product management for Salinas, Calif.-based Naturipe Farms LLC, said blueberries were affected, but not with widespread damage.
“The freeze may have eliminated up to 10% of the entire Chilean blueberry crop forecasted but the damage is isolated to specific farms in specific areas in the eighth and ninth regions,” Flores said.
Farms with sprinkler or wind-based freeze protection made it through with little damage, Flores said.
Frank Ramos, president of Miami-based customs brokerage The Perishable Specialist, agrees blueberries will be affected but not at extreme levels.
“Our customers are reporting some loss on blueberries but are optimistic that they will make up the loss at the end of the season,” Ramos said.
Flores agreed the earlier season will be more affected.
“We will feel this loss of volume with the December and January arrivals as most of the fruit damaged would have been harvested during the month of December and early January,” he said.
Kragie said the freeze won’t drastically impact the markets for cherries and blueberries but will help stabilize pricing.
“It will alleviate some of the pressure on those higher volume crops,” he said.