Chile’s cherries: Full of flavor and business opportunities

The 2011-2012 cherry season is set to be another record breaker for foreign exports in Chile’s booming cherry trade.  

As anyone who’s spent a summer in the country can tell you, Chilean cherries are to die for. Larger, richer in color and fuller of flavor than most international varieties, the fruit is a staple in the warmer months, when it is sold by the bucket load in street markets across the country.
And now the world appears to be catching on, with a record year in the offing for the Chile’s cherry producers.
With the peak of the season just passed (but don’t worry, they’re still available in some places) cherry exports reached a formidable 57,196 tons, 12 percent higher than at the same time last year.
Much of the growth can be attributed to a surge in exports to the developing world, and in particular Eastern Asia, a market which grew 46 percent from last season and consumed 34,624 tons, just over 60 percent of the entire Chilean export crop.
Latin America and the Middle East also registered significant rises in demand for the Chilean fruit, reaching figures of 19.1 percent and 17.4 percent respectively.
“We had it all this season,” said a representative from Chile’s national union of fruit producers, Fedefruta. “Good fruit quality and size, high profits and we had the weather on our side, which is fundamental for the cherry.”
Good conditions for the cherry crop yielded a smaller but higher-quality harvest than last year’s.
“We saw that our orchards, which were overburdened last year, had a smaller amount of fruit this year, and that translated to a better quality of fruit,” said Claudio Vergara, production manager for a nursery in Rancagua.
Cherries are an integral part of Chile’s fruit exports and play a key role in the North American and European markets – which account for 21 and 9 percent of Chilean exports respectively – as Chile is the major cherry grower in the southern hemisphere and supplies its fruit at a time when those of the northern hemisphere are out of season.
The Chilean harvest generally begins in October and peaks in November and December, but the season is prolonged in the cooler southern areas of the country, particularly the Araucanía region.