Chile: Nuts and dried fruit stand out for their export performance
Nuts stood out as one of the products that had a better performance in last season's exports. According to figures from the Office of Agricultural Policies and Studies (Odepa), under the Ministry of Agriculture, at the end of the period, its shipments abroad exceeded $ 723 million, an increase of 18%. Meanwhile, in terms of volume, shipments reached 169,151 tonnes, an increase of 21%.
Nuts were the star of this segment. Returns for this product in the 2016-2017 season, which ran from September last year to August this year, reached over US $ 420 million, an increase of 52% over the previous period, as revealed by Odepa figures. Chilean Walnut Commission executive director Andrés Rodríguez said: "Every five years, Chile is doubling its production. The country already has more than 44 thousand hectares planted with walnuts, which represent the second most relevant area, after table grapes. "He added: "The strategy of the industry is to keep growing, but with quality. Next year, I think we will beat the 100,000 ton barrier to be exported."
As for almonds, the figures reveal that the returns in the season that just concluded totaled more than US $45 million, a fall of 34% compared to the previous season. The commercial manager of almond producer and exporter Parmex, Cristián Manterola, said that Chile has competitive advantages in terms of climatic conditions for the production of almonds, especially in the area between Ovalle and Rancagua. In spite of this, the executive pointed out that there is no great incentive to plant there. "The cultivation is not easy, since it is a deciduous tree and its pollination is done by bees. In addition, in the best area to plant there is a scarcity of water and the availability of land is scarce, as it is being used for other types of crops, such as nuts and cherries, "he said.
Regardless of the above, Manterola stressed that for Chile it is "a stable business, since it is the dry fruit that has the highest consumption worldwide, due to the multiplicity of uses it has. For example, in the manufacture of chocolates."
Unlike almonds, hazelnuts had a positive period. Their returns exceeded US $ 89 million, which translated into an increase of 8% compared to US $ 83 million for the period between September 2015 and August 2016. In this case, much of the local production is made by AgriChile, a subsidiary of the Italian Ferrero group, which, in turn, exports the product to make its chocolates with hazelnuts outside Chile.
The owner of Agrícola La Campana, Jaime Armengolli, said: "The business has become attractive for producers. So much so, that they are currently planting around 1,500 hectares of hazel per year. " The producer explained that AgriChile's business model has been successful because it has generated interest from farmers. "Ferrero's business was well thought out, because it has installed purchasing power in the country. The producer is interested in a company buying its hazelnuts and paying cash," said Armengolli.
As for prunes, returns of more than US $ 167 million were generated last season, a slight fall of 9% compared to US $ 183 million in the 2015-2016 production period.
Andrés Rodríguez, who is also director of Chile Prunes, said: "The plums industry is in a moment of stability. It has already had its period of growth, and today it has become a mature industry that has maintained its planted area levels (around 12 thousand hectares) and is stable in terms of production. He added that "a large growth is not expected in terms of volume in plums".