Chile's fruit exports are expected to increase by 14% during this growing season and should reach a volume of 1.6 million tons. The 2000-2001 season looks promising to date as a result of good climatic conditions. In addition, attractive sales prices were achieved on the first fruit shipments to the US.

Chile's minister of agriculture, Jaime Campos, bases his optimism about this season's fruit crop on more than just good weather. He points out that water tables are high, making it possible to irrigate if necessary. In addition, considerable progress has been made in the area of sanitation, with fruit flies completely under control at the moment.

The president of Chile's Association of Exporters, Ronald Brown, indicated that it looks now as though fruit growers are guaranteed to recover any losses from the roughly 10% decline in production experienced during the 1999-2000 growing season. Most of the increase in foreign sales is expected to be in the US market.

During the past growing season, the US accounted for 40% of Chile's fruit exports and this year it should represent even more than that. The remainder of export sales are equally divided among three regions: Europe, Latin America, and Asia. According to exporters, the declining value of the Euro relative to the dollar has already caused a shift in sales from Europe to North American markets. That trend is likely to continue through 2001.

Other foreign markets with growth potential include Mexico and Russia. Chile has a free trade accord with Mexico that allows Chilean fruit to gain easier access to that market. Fruit sales to Russia reached 1.2 million cases during the past growing season and should increase this season.

Exporters agree that the US is the most desirable export market because of its great size and attractive pricing structure. Grape sales to the US have been especially strong during this growing season. High rotation in North American supermarkets bodes well for grape sales over the next few months.

By Steve Lewis, just-food.com correspondent