A devastating storm described as the worst in 15 years has hit a number of growing areas in Chile. The severe hailstorm is expected to affect at least $200 million in crops.
The Federation of Fruit Producers (Fedefruta) reports Chilean fruit production has been hit across Chile’s central and southern regions, with cherries among the most affected. The large sized hail lasted an amazing 20 to 30 minutes. The worst affected areas in the central O’Higgins region represents 26.5 percent of the Chile’s fruit production. Crops hit hardest include cherries, table and wine grapes, kiwifruit, nectarines, almonds, walnuts, among many others.
The area accounts for 40 percent of the region’s fruit-producing land, or 74, 100 acres, and almost 10 percent of the national total. Cherries and table grapes have received the most damage, followed by stone fruit.
Further south in the country, in the Maule Norte and Ñuble region, which has about 24,700 acres of blueberries, there appears to be significant damage not only from hail, but from heavy rainfall.
Prior to the adverse weather Oppenheimer Group of Vancouver, Canada was expecting normal imports with Chilean peaches, plums and nectarines.
While shipments were going to be limited in December, volume was to ramp up in January and continue in volume into March.
In calendar year 2017, the USDA reported Chile shipped 66.2 million pounds of peaches, 96.5 million pounds of plums and 97.7 million pounds of nectarines to the U.S.
Those numbers were off compared with calendar year 2016, when Chile sent 80.9 million pounds of peaches, 124.3 million pounds of plums and 119.1 million pounds of nectarines to the U.S.
Acreage of stone fruit has declined in Chile in recent years, with peach and nectarine acreage falling from about 47,400 acres in 2013 to 41,600 acres in 2016.
Peach and nectarine production in Chile declined from 369,000 metric tons in 2014 to 337,000 metric tons in 2016, according to the United National Food and Agriculture Organization.
Plum acreage has dropped from 46,000 acres in 2013, to about 43,000 acres in 2016, according to the FAO. Plum production dipped from 312,000 metric tons in 2013 to 295,000 metric tons in 2016.
No reports have been issued on how Chile’s apple and pear shipments to the U.S. may be affected, perhaps because its season is later, mainly arriving in the U.S. from March through July.
Prior to the weather event, The USDA projected that Chile will export about 720,000 metric tons of apples in 2018-19 season, down 4 percent from 750,000 metric tons exported in 2017-18.
The U.S. is the top market for Chilean apples.
Chile’s total apple planted area decreased from 92,775 acres in 2013 to about 85,000 acres in 2017. The decline is because apple exports have not been as profitable as other crops such as cherries, walnuts and hazelnuts.
Chilean pear production in 2018-19 totaled 250,000 metric tons after a 3.8 percent decrease in planted area. Chile’s pear exports in 2018-19 were projected to decrease to 127,000 metric tons, a 2.3 percent decrease due to lower than expected production.