As of 2013 the Maule Valley, cradle of the Chilean wine industry, will have a new gourmet product to complement its famed Carignans.
With its latest successful harvest this month, the area’s nascent black Périgord truffle industry is set to make Chile the first South American country to export the lucrative “diamonds of the kitchen” – which CBS recently dubbed as “the most expensive food in the world.”
Since 2001 Chile’s agriculture ministry, through its farming innovation foundation, the FIA, has been supporting efforts to produce the truffle crop, which takes around a decade to reach potential.
Regional Agriculture Secretary Anita Prizant visited Maule Valley in mid June as the harvest began.
“This initiative…strengthens the competitiveness of the sector and generates new opportunities for growers in the region,” Prizant said.
The climate and soil of the valley, which makes for gives the region’s wines their distinctive character, is also perfectly suited to growing truffles.
“We are privileged in our region to have ideal growing conditions for black truffles,” said Rafael Henríquez, partner in pioneering grower Agrobiotruf, “we have clearly defined seasons with temperate summers and cold winters as well as soft, good training soils that give this product its fine eating qualities.”
Global production of truffles is almost entirely confined to Europe, with French growers accounting for 45 percent of world’s truffles, Spain and Italy 35 and 20 percent respectively.
However the output of European producers has declined significantly over the last century, and Chile is looking to join Australia as a major “New World” contributor to the global market.
Already 370 acres (150 ha) of black Périgord truffle have been planted in the Andean nation, and that area is set to expand by around 150 acres (60 ha) every year for the next decade, as the FIA looks aims to produce between seven and 10 percent of the world’s truffles in Chile.
Over the course of the year, the FIA and Maule Valley producers will try to establish an international reputation and export / import protocols, in preparation for 2013, the year in which international exports are set to begin.
The United States, Japan, China, Spain, France and Italy will be key target markets.