New crops

Chile to become South America's first truffle exporter

An innovative Chilean business is confident that its truffle crop will be large enough to begin sending the valuable fungus overseas by 2013.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011  
Truffles regularly fetch up to US$1,200 per kilo on the European market. (Photo: ulterior epicure/Fl Truffles regularly fetch up to US$1,200 per kilo on the European market. (Photo: ulterior epicure/Flickr)

Chile has long been famous around the world for its fresh fruit exports, but now an enterprising local business is hoping to branch out into a new area of food production.

Agrobiotruf has plans to become the first South American company to export truffles. After producing its third harvest, the group is confident that it will be able to reach its goal within the next two years.

At just 7.7 pounds (3.5 kg), the yield may seem small but it is a significant increase from the 5.3 pounds (2.4kg) collected in 2010.

Agrobiotruf told El Mercurio that it usually takes around 10 years for a truffle crop to reach its full potential and the company believes its crop will continue to grow exponentially, yielding between 66 and 110lbs (30 and 50kg) next year and up to 660lbs (300kg) in 2013.

Over the past few years, the group has invested around US$800,000 (CLP432,000) in the truffle project with funding support from Chile's Agrarian Innovation Fund (FIA).

The business is now in the process of improving the quality of the Chilean-grown truffles so that they are able to compete in the European market, where truffles regularly sell for US$1,200 a kilogram (2.2 pounds).

Last year the group sent samples from its Chilean truffle harvest to Spain, where they were tested by experts to ensure quality of their taste, color, feel and smell.

Agrobiotruf is currently growing truffles in Chile's Metropolitan, Maule, Los Ríos and Araucanía Regions and while its primary focus at this stage is on black truffles, it is also cultivating burgundy truffles in some areas that are better suited to the lesser known variety.

As well as growing truffles, the company is training Labradors, Cocker Spaniels and Border Collies to detect when the prized fungus is ready for harvesting using their keen sense of smell.

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