The Packer’s National Editor Tom Karst chatted on March 3 with Tom Tjerandsen, managing director for North America for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, Sonoma Calif. You can read the entire chat on the Fresh Talk blog.

3:30 p.m. Tom Karst: Thanks for taking time for this chat. It’s been an unbelievable week. What is it like for you as you are communicating with your Chilean counterparts? Since Feb. 27, what has the scene been like?

Q&A | Tom Tjerandsen, Chilean Fresh Fruit Association

Tjerandsen

3:31 p.m. Tom Tjerandsen: It has been a great relief to know that all of our counterparts in Chile have managed to make it through this disaster successfully. It has also been gratifying to see how well a country that has prepared for this kind of disaster performs as quickly and efficiently as they have.

3:34 p.m. Karst: As you talk to U.S. retailers and people that market Chilean fruit in the U.S., what has been your message? What are they saying to you at this point?

3:35 p.m. Tjerandsen: Based on a rapid census taken in Chile, it appears the total volume might be down because some fruit might be lost because the cold chain was broken or because it was just shaken from the trees and branches. Right now both the grower organization and ASOEX are trying to determine a likely impact on the final total. It didn’t affect grapes much — it was mostly just the remaining stone fruit, some pears, kiwifruit and apples.

3:38 p.m. Karst: What is the extent of damage to buildings? Is there any way of knowing what percentage of packing houses, for example, might have been damaged?

3:39 p.m. Tjerandsen: The initial survey suggests that impact from that standpoint will be minimal. For the most part, the packing sheds made it through. And because Chile is an earthquake-prone country, most of the the cold storage facilities have alternate power generating capabilities — big tanks filled with gasoline to run compressors and such — they think that the amount that is lost due to loss of power is going to be minimal. What they are trying to do is determine how many of the workers are able to come back to work, and that will certainly have an impact on the output from the packing plants.

3:42 Karst: Do you sense there will be any diversion of fruit, either from the U.S. market to other markets, or to the U.S. market, as a result of the earthquake and the aftermath?

3:42 p.m. Tjerandsen: No, the same forces that were in place (before the earthquake) that determine the demand and direction for shipments are still in place: the value of the dollar, the contracts with U.S. retailers are just as important and active as they were. The only thing that changes is the extent to which retailers continue with promotion plans — aggressive promotions to move a lot of fruit. We are hoping that even though there may be a short hiatus in shipments, retailers hold to those aggressive promotions, because we expect to have fruit available to fill them.