It was no coincidence that in 2012, Chile’s cherry exports hit record highs, growing by nearly 20 percent in just one season.
Sure the weather was good, put the record growth came after new branding and trade strategies and years of concerted effort in expanding and improving the Andean nation’s cherry crop.
Now this cherry boom is drawing international competitors to come to Chile and learn from the experience in this country.
“The area I visited in Chile, south of Santiago – I travelled about 400 km south (250 mi) – and basically, for most of that 400 kilometers, it’s just wall to wall to wall horticulture. .. you drive down there and you just think, gee these guys have been the foodbowl for about 15 years,” said apple and cherry grower Howard Hansen on Australia’s national broadcaster, ABC radio, about his recent visit to the country to learn how the industry is expanding.
In particular, the Australian orchardist from that country’s top cherry-producing region says that he was amazed at the huge cherry industry in Chile.
“It’s quite unbelievable, they’re planting 1,000 hectares (2470 acres) a year, which is, you know, that’s two and a half times the total area that’s planted in Tasmania, and the only reason they’re not planting three or 4,000 hectares a year is that there is a limited amount of nursery trees and planting material available,” he said.
Hansen went on to discuss the uniqueness of the Chile’s cherry industry, saying that the South American competitor had “some massive competitive advantages.”
“They have the water resources, they have the labor resources, they have the land resources and cherries are certainly more profitable than any other crop that they’ve got available to them at the moment,” said Hansen.
“We understand their position quite well now and there’s probably two competitive advantages that they have that are the hardest to overcome in the cherry business,” he said, “and obviously the cost of labor is one of those and the other one that is going to hard for us to tackle is how dry their environment is and how dry their summer is.”
The Australian grower explained that the lack of summer rains allows Chilean growers to have “a lot more confidence about storing that fruit for extended periods,” meaning that picking can occur when the fruit is at its ripest, and highest quality.
To hear the interview, click here.