Chilean fruit exports to increase 7.4 percent in 2011

This year has seen an increase in the yield of blueberries, cherries, nuts and avocados while demand is on the rise in Asia and the Middle East.

Apples are one of Chile's leading fruit exports.

Chilean fresh fruit exports are expected to bring in returns of around US$3.6 billion in 2011, according to data released by the Fruit Growers Federation of Chile (Fedefruta).

The total volume of fresh fruit exports this year is expected to exceed 2.6 million tons, an increase of 7.4 percent on 2010. The increase can mainly be attributed to the creation of new fruit plantations, along with improved yields in orchards recovering from poor weather conditions in previous seasons.

The fruit varieties that experienced the biggest increases in volume were blueberries, which rose by 31 percent, cherries (41 percent), nuts (22 percent) and avocados (20 percent).

“These particular fruits are also playing a bigger role in export returns,” Fedefruta’s President Antonio Walker told La Tercera.

“For example, blueberries represented 2.2 percent of Chilean fruit export values in 2000 but in 2011, they will account for 9.8 percent of total export earnings, occupying third place behind table grapes and apples.”

The past year has also seen some significant changes in the export markets for Chilean fruit. The among of fresh produce heading to the United States dropped by 4 percent, but at the same time, demand has grown in other regions with 27.8 percent of Chile’s fruit exports going to Asia, 26.4 percent to Latin America and 9.8 percent to the Middle East.

“We see these last few markets starting to position themselves as pivotal for Chile’s fruit industry,” said Walker. “Just as there are a range of new fruit varieties in our exports, there is also a lot of movement in our target markets which is a definite challenge, given what is happening in China and India. We have a tremendous opportunity that we must take advantage of so we need to act urgently to pave the way.”