CHILE: Rains dampen prospects for Chile's fresh fruit exporters
Five consecutive days of cold weather, high winds and continuous rainfall have dampened the prospects for Chile's fresh fruit export industry this coming 2000/2001 season.Fresh fruit exports are Chile's third most important industry (after copper and manufacturing), netting the country US$1.4bn in returns each year and providing one half of all the fresh fruit consumed in northern hemisphere countries during their winter months, November through March.The central and southern valleys hit by the bad weather grow more than 80% of Chile's fresh fruit. Apple and pear orchards are most affected fruit varieties because the cold, rainy weather has kept bees from doing their crucial pollination work during the peak flowering period."The volumes of apples and pears, especially late varieties, will undoubtedly be impacted by this weather," said Carlos Caballero, an agricultural agronomist with the Fruit Development Foundation. "The bees just are not moving. Still, the flowering this year has been so abundant, it is hard to determine how this will finally work itself out."Damage could also occur to stonefruit (plums, apricots and peaches) and table grape exports, but only if the temperature dips below the freezing mark. Thus far the thermometer has hovered just above the freezing mark."We are worried because it rained a lot and the cold weather continues to linger," said one central valley grower. "There is a lot of snow in the mountains. The cold could delay the season. Our greatest fear is that the temperatures will fall. The table grape vines are already sprouting and any freeze now could have a catastrophic effect on both them and our stonefruit production."Last year Chile exported 1.45 million tons of fresh fruit to markets around the world, a figure which has remained constant the past four seasons. The fruit is shipped mostly to North America, Europe and Asia.
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